Breastfeeding for any amount of time linked to lower blood pressure in toddlers, study finds

Breastfeeding for any duration is linked to lower blood pressure in toddlers at age 3, the study found.

(CNN)Toddlers who were breastfed for any amount of time had lower blood pressure than those who were not breastfed at all, according to a new study, suggesting once again that "breast is best" for health.

The reduction in blood pressure found in the study "is of clinically important magnitude and surprising," Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter told CNN in an email. Feldman-Winter, who was not involved in the study, is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding.
"I may have expected a difference to be apparent just prior to or during adolescence, but the fact that these differences were seen as early as three years of age indicates that breastfeeding participates in metabolic programming that spans the life cycle," wrote Feldman-Winter, who is a professor of pediatrics at Rowan University's Cooper Medical School.

    Any breastfeeding helped

      The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, used data from almost 2,400 children who are part of the CHILD (Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development) Cohort Study. CHILD is a longitudinal study that tracks the health of thousands of Canadian mothers and their children born between 2009 and 2012.
      The study analyzed data on the length of time infants were breastfed and compared it to their blood pressure at age 3. Across the board, breastfed children had lower blood pressure regardless of the amount of time spent breastfeeding.
      The finding was unexpected, said senior study author Meghan Azad, deputy director of the CHILD Cohort Study, an associate professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.
        "We found, contrary to our expectations, it did not matter how long you were breastfed, whether it was two days, two weeks, two months or two years," Azad said. "We saw an improvement of blood pressure profiles from any breastfeeding at all."
        Prior research shows extended breastfeeding from six months to over a year lowers an infant's risk of obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal infections and more, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also reduces the mother's risk of some cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure.
        A "dose response" is often seen, meaning "the longer, the better" in relation to protecting against infections and asthma, Azad said.
        The official recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, then continued with complementary foods such as infant cereals, fruits and vegetables for a year or more.
        The World Health Organization recommends the same for the first six months, with continued breastfeeding and complementary foods for up to two years of age or longer.

        Breastfeeding immediately after birth 'crucial'

        Previous studies attempting to examine the link between breastfeeding and children's blood pressure have been inconsistent, likely due to varying definitions of breastfeeding, the study noted.