What is the link between breastfeeding and the reduction of ear infections? What about breastfeeding or breastmilk reduces the likelihood of ear infections?
This is a great question and the answer is a bit complicated. We know that breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, on average, than bottle-fed babies. There are several likely reasons for this. Breastmilk contains many antibodies and other immunity-building molecules that help prevent infection in the infant. This means that they are less likely to catch the viral illnesses which predispose to ear infections. Breastfed babies also tend to feed in a more upright position which may improve Eustachian tube function and decrease the risk of infection. Finally, breastfed babies may be less prone to allergies which may also predispose to ear infections. So the protective relationship between breastfeeding and ear infections is fairly complex. We know that the relationship exists but we can’t say exactly how much the different factors contribute to it.
Deborah Greenhouse MD, FAAP