Mothers who breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of life are also protecting their children against shigella, a severe form of diarrhea, according to a recent Bangladeshi study.
Study author Mohammed Zobayer Chisti, an assistant researcher from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, said that stopping breastfeeding for newborns had long-term consequences. He said that newborn children who had proper breastfeeding were more likely to have shigella resistance than children who did not. Children who have shigella infections typically experience seizures, brain changes, growth stunting, and death.
The research team found that children who were not properly breastfed as newborns were 40% more likely to develop the brain changes, or encephalopathy, that are associated with shigella infections. Chisti said that he believed the reason why children who were not breastfed suffered so much had to do with levels of vitamin A, which helped children build resistance to the disease. Children who lack vitamin A also sometimes end up having lower levels of retinol in their liver, which can hasten the progress of shigella. The World Health Organization recommends that infants always be breastfed for the first six months of life.