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Role of Breastfeeding in Protection Against Respiratory Tract Infections

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An infectious disease, also known as transmissible disease or communicable disease, is illness resulting from the invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce.

  1. Infectious diseases, including respiratory tract infections, are still a leading cause of morbidity and hospitalization in infants and children.
  2. Infection and malnutrition have always been intricately linked. Malnutrition is the primary cause of immunodeficiency worldwide, and because this immune deficiency is partially compensated by breast-feeding, hence it is the single best way to protect infants from infection.
  3. There is much epidemiological evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding against a wide range of infections and illnesses.
  4. Nutrition is essential to the health and development of infants and children. Breastfeeding is superior to infant formula feeding because in addition to breastmilk’s nutritional advantages, it protects against infections through specific and non-specific immune factors and has long-term consequences for metabolism and disease later in life.
  5. Breast milk contains various antimicrobial substances, anti-inflammatory components and factors that promote immune development. It enhances the immature immune system of the infant and strengthens defense mechanisms against infectious and other agents during the breastfeeding period.4,
  6. Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a key measure to ensure the health of mothers and children.
  7. In 2002, WHO updated the breastfeeding guidelines and recommended “all infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond” (WHA55 A55/15, paragraph 10, p. 5).
  8. In a recent analysis of the health consequences of child undernutrition, it was estimated that suboptimal breast-feeding was responsible for 1.4 million child deaths and 44 million disability-adjusted life-years, equivalent to 10% of the disability-adjusted life-years in children younger than 5 years.
  9. A meta-analysis estimated a significant reduction in risk for hospitalization for respiratory disease in healthy, term infants in developed countries associated with exclusive breastfeeding for >4 months compared with no breastfeeding (unadjusted risk ratio: 0.28; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.14 – 0.54).
  10. Breastfeeding benefits have been demonstrated in multiple studies to be dose-responsive or, in other words, related to the amount of breast milk received. For example, fully breastfed infants have been shown to have lower overall illness rates, whereas minimal breastfeeding has not been found to be protective.
  11. It is suggested that the influences of breast milk on the infant’s immune system may persist beyond the breastfeeding period, as it not only provides passive immunity but also maturation of the immune system in the long run.
  12. Since breastfeeding might protect against diseases in adulthood such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease a prolonged protection against respiratory tract infections after the first year of life seems plausible.
  13. The present study aims to measure the effect of breastfeeding on the reduced incidence of respiratory tract infections in children admitted in the Pediatric Department of Ayub Teaching Hospital.

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Role of breastfeeding in protection against respiratory tract infections. (2019, February 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from
“Role of breastfeeding in protection against respiratory tract infections.” GradesFixer, 27 Feb. 2019,
Role of breastfeeding in protection against respiratory tract infections. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Sept. 2021].
Role of breastfeeding in protection against respiratory tract infections [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Feb 27 [cited 2021 Sept 26]. Available from:
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