NEW YORK (WABC) -- A U.S. study now suggests that vaccines and breastfeeding are tied to a decline in ear infections in infants.
The study, led by Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveson, followed 367 healthy babies during the first year of their lives, monitoring them for at least six months or until they developed an ear infection.
Babies in the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, were much less likely to get ear infections if they were breastfed and if they received vaccines to prevent against flu and against Streptococcus pneumonia e bacteria, which can cause infections of the ears, lungs, blood, and sinuses.
During the study, 305 infants had respiratory infections that can lead to ear infections, and 180 ear infections were documented in 143 babies.
Ear infections remain the leading reason for infant sick visits and antibiotic prescriptions. According to this study, about 46% of infants get at least one ear infection by their first birthday but that's down from at least 60% in the 1990s.
"Breastfeeding helps boost a child's immune system by providing antibodies and immune globulins that fight germs," said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, chairman of ear, nose and throat medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "New vaccines make children more resistant to the common bacteria and viruses that trigger ear infections."
Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months of their life. Also, babies can receive the pneumococcal vaccine starting at two months old, requiring a series of booster shots.