Mention breastfeeding and you’ll find most mothers have a strong opinion about it, one way or the other. It’s an emotional topic. But it’s also a scientific one. Researchers have spent years investigating the effects of breastfeeding on newborns and infants. One question that has been asked is ‘does breastfeeding reduce the risk of ear infection in infants?’ The results are in.

The short answer, yes it does.

But let’s delve a little deeper into the facts and figures behind this.

First, let’s set the scene…

75% of infants have at least one ear infection by age one

Ear infections aren’t just uncomfortable for the infant and stressful for the parents, they can also have long-term consequences for the child’s hearing health. For example, severe and repeated middle ear infections can cause hearing loss. In children this can lead to delayed language development, which in turn can result in learning difficulties and trouble with reading.

Breast-fed babies have half the number of ear infections of formula-fed babies

The protective effects of breast milk mean that exclusively formula-fed babies lose out and as a result, have twice as many ear infections as exclusively breast-fed babies.

The evidence in support of the protective effects of breast milk is so strong that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for at least one year.

More breastfeeding means more protection against ear infections

In scientific jargon this is called a ‘dose-response’ relationship. The ‘dose’ being breastfeeding and the ‘response’ being the likelihood of getting an ear infection. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months provides the greatest amount of protection, but even partial breastfeeding or breastfeeding exclusively for a shorter amount of time will provide some protection against ear infections, according to paediatricians.

So, when it comes to reducing the chances of ear infection, the old saying ‘breast is best’ applies. To protect your infant’s hearing, there are a few other things you can do:

  • regularly wash your and your baby’s hands to reduce the chances of them catching a cold
  • reduce the use of pacifiers
  • don’t smoke
  • keep you infant away from second-hand smoke.

Importantly, if you ever have any concerns about your infant’s hearing, contact an ear, nose, and throat health professional at Scottsdale Ear, Nose and Throat. We’re here to make sure that your child’s hearing stays sound.

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Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital, and clinical settings.
    You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again – Regina’s Story

    Regina has suffered from hearing problems since she was an infant, recognized as regular chronic ear infections. And, as with unfortunate events, she has experienced a multitude of audiology catastrophes.

    It was many years before Regina crossed paths with Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat; where her lifetime of hearing problems was addressed effectively and treated with the delicate care that she desperately required.

    Regina’s journey began when she was taken to a regular paediatrician by her mother from a young age. Her ears were, what we describe as an audiologists recipe for disaster, ‘flushed out’.

    This dangerous procedure caused a nasty infection, which spread to her mastoid bone and, at the age of 15, she underwent a tympanoplasty mastoidectomy to stop the infection spreading. This only forbade her future struggles with hearing loss. 

    As with poor diagnosis, Regina was faced with another canaloplasty which didn’t work. Soon after, she received a BAHA, which is a cochlear implant in her skull that acts as a sound processor that detects sound and transforms it into vibrations. 

    However, suffering from a history of poor hearing care, she was unaware of the former issues her ear presented.

    By now, this would be described as any audiologists nightmare. But, we’re proud to have helped Regina on her road to optimum hearing and reconnect her to her loved ones.

    When she arrived at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat it was evident that she was losing hearing on her right side. At this point, she was fitted with a ReSound hearing device, which provided the catalyst to a new and improved hearing.

    The first thing Regina noticed was the indefinite sound she had been making whilst emptying the dishwasher, completely unaware of the noise she was making!

    “I mean, the detail that I can hear now it’s like, Whoa, I didn’t realize I was making that much noise. I need to be quieter!”

    Treated with professional care, Regina received a comprehensive hearing assessment with Dr. Debra Hamila.

    “I just love, love, love Dr. Hamila, she is such a professional and loving person. I was so impressed with the office and what she did with the ReSound, I just love her.”

    Like many others, it takes years for people to realize they have a hearing problem. Regina described this moment as life-changing.

    “You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again. Especially now I’m a full-time Grammy Nanny, I can hear so much more and it has enriched my life incredibly.”

    What advice would you give to someone who is deliberating on taking the first step towards better hearing?

    “My advice to them would be to have a hearing test. Especially as we age our hearing goes down. It’s really unfortunate that people carry their pride and are not willing to learn to walk with the rock in their shoe. You don’t realise you’re waking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again.”

    Regina is one of many patients who has been impacted by our audiological services and we are proud to have been able to provide the tool towards better hearing and a lifetime of many more memories.