To compare the frequency of hospitalization during the first six months of life between breast-fed and bottle-fed infants.
A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted over twelve months, in hospital-based outpatient clinics. Mother-infant pairs, seen at the clinics during the study period, were enrolled. Infants were between the ages of 6-24 months and had been brought for routine check-ups, vaccinations or common childhood ailments. Subjects were recruited from babies with no congenital anomalies or chronic illnesses. Study team recorded necessary information about feeding practices, previous illnesses and hospitalizations on a structured questionnaire. Hospitalization rates in 3 groups of infants with different feeding methods i.e. predominant breastfeeding, partial breast-feeding, and bottle-feeding were compared. Results were analyzed using SPSS software, ANOVA was used for comparison of means between groups, and a p-value <0.05 was regarded as significant.
A total of 606 mother-infant dyads were enrolled, of which 73% infants were on predominant breastfeeding at 6 months of age. The rate of all-cause hospitalization before six months of age was: 6.3%, 22.2% and 27.2% in infants with predominant breast-feeding, partial breast-feeding and bottle-feeding, respectively, (p < 0.001). Figures for admission due to infectious cause were 6%, 17.6% and 25.6%, respectively, (p < 0.001). Adjusted Odds ratio between bottle-fed and breast-fed babies was 5.3 for all-cause hospitalization, and 6.1 for hospitalization due to infectious illnesses.
Our findings show that protective effect of breast-feeding is not limited to developing countries; it extends to young infants living in urbanized environments equipped with adequate sanitation and clean water supply.