Are infants who are breastfed less likely to experience diarrhea than infants who are formula-fed?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
Yes. All the studies in this list that examine the question agreed on this conclusion.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong. For medical questions, don't rely on the information here. Consult a medical professional.
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Chart summary of 8 studies examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Couldn't Identify means that State of K was not able to determine whether a study answers the question "yes" or "no". This could be due to several factors. One possibility is that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This often happens when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). Yet another possibility is that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. Finally, the full text or abstract of a study may not have been written clearly or was inaccessible. This would make it difficult to determine how a study answered a question.

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SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 8
Sorted by publication year
1
Feeding Modes, Duration, and Diarrhea in Infancy: Continued Evidence of the Protective Effects of Breastfeeding
"Abstract Objectives To evaluate the effect of early breastfeeding cessation on incidence of diarrhea in a cohort of U.S. infants. Design, Sample, and Measurements A secondary data analysis was conducted using data from 2,340 mother–infant dyads participating in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II. We examined associations between duration of feeding type (e.g., exclusive breastfeeding [EBF], any breastfeeding [BF], formula feeding) and incidence of diarrhea before one year. Results The sample included mother–infant dyads that were 86.2% White, 3% Black, and 5% Hispanic. Interruption of EBF before 3 months was significantly associated with higher odds of having diarrhea at 6 months (OR = 1.80, p value ≤ 0.01) and between 6 and 12 months (OR = 1.45, p ≤ .01). Breastfeeding interruption before 6 months was associated with higher odds of having diarrhea at 6 months (OR = 3.19, p ≤ .01). Formula feeding for ≥3 months was associated with higher odds of diarrhea between 6 and 12 months. Conclusions Exclusive breastfeeding for 3 months accompanied by any breastfeeding for 6 months provided the most protective effect against diarrhea. Public health interventions should address disparities in breastfeeding practices and provide support across clinical, workplace and community settings. Research should include more diverse population groups."
AUTHOR
Ana F. Diallo
PUBLISHED
2019 Public Health Nursing
Yes
Yes
2
Infant Feeding Practices and Diarrhoea in Sub-Saharan African Countries With High Diarrhoea Mortality
"BackgroundThe impacts of optimal infant feeding practices on diarrhoea have been documented in some developing countries, but not in countries with high diarrhoea mortality as reported by the World Health Organisation/United Nations Children’s Fund. We aimed to investigate the association between infant feeding practices and diarrhoea in sub-Saharan African countries with high diarrhoea mortality.MethodThe study used the most recent Demographic and Health Survey datasets collected in nine sub-Saharan African countries with high diarrhoea mortality, namely: Burkina Faso (2010, N = 9,733); Demographic Republic of Congo (2013; N = 10,458); Ethiopia (2013, N = 7,251); Kenya (2014, N = 14,034); Mali (2013, N = 6,365); Niger (2013, N = 7,235); Nigeria (2013, N = 18,539); Tanzania (2010, N = 5,013); and Uganda (2010, N = 4,472). Multilevel logistic regression models that adjusted for cluster and sampling weights were used to investigate the association between infant feeding practices and diarrhoea in these nine African countries.ResultsDiarrhoea prevalence was lower among children whose mothers practiced early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive and predominant breastfeeding. Early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding were significantly associated with lower risk of diarrhoea (OR = 0.81; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.77–0.85, P<0.001 and OR = 0.50; 95%CI: 0.43–0.57, respectively). In contrast, introduction of complementary foods (OR = 1.31; 95%CI: 1.14–1.50) and continued breastfeeding at one year (OR = 1.27; 95%CI: 1.05–1.55) were significantly associated with a higher risk of diarrhoea.ConclusionEarly initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding are protective of diarrhoea in sub-Saharan African countries with high diarrhoea mortality. To reduce diarrhoea mortality and also achieve the health-related sustainable development goals in sub-Saharan African, an integrated, multi-agency strategic partnership within each country is needed to improve optimal infant feeding practices."
AUTHOR
Felix Akpojene Ogbo
PUBLISHED
2017 PLoS One
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
3
Role of Exclusive Breastfeeding in Preventing Diarrhea
"AbstractBackground: Breast milk has protective factors for infants' digestive tract. Infants are vulnerable to diseases, one of which is diarrhea. This cross-sectional study was designed to determine the relation between the proportion of diarrhea in infants and the administration of exclusive breastfeeding in Jatinangor. Methods: This study was an observational study. Data on mothers with 6 months old infants were collected from Jatinangor Primary Health Center (PHC) infant records. The inclusion criteria applied were infants born in April 2012, alive, and living in Jatinangor subdistrict. One hundred and seventy one infants were recorded in April of 2012 in the PHC data. Thirty five were excluded because they were not born in April 2012. Another 45 were excluded because they were not permanent residents of Jatinangor subdistrict, while 4 infants died, and 23 had incomplete data. Therefore, only 66 infants were included as study subjects. Those infants came from 12 villages in the subdistrict of Jatinangor. Data collection was then performed using a questionnaire to the parents during the period of 21-31 October 2012. Results: From 66 infants, the proportion of diarrhea was 66.7%. Only 27.3% of all infants received exclusive breastfeeding. There was a difference in the proportion of diarrhea between infants who were exclusively breastfed and those who were not. Exclusive breastfeeding also reduced the risk of diarrhea (OR= 0.26, 95% CI 0.08-0.83). Conclusions: There is a relation between the proportion of diarrhea in infants and exclusive breastfeeding in Jatinangor. Breastfeeding has a protective effect against diarrhea in infants."
AUTHOR
Hanifah Rohmah
PUBLISHED
2015 Althea Medical Journal
Yes
Yes
4
Breast Feeding Versus Formula Feeding and Diarrheal Diseases in Infants and Children- A Review
"Summary:The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Human breast milk is the healthiest form of milk for babies. Breastfeeding promotes health and helps to prevent diseases including diarrheal diseases. It contains all nutrients including antibodies (IgA),and lactoferrin, that potentially prevent infection and diarrhea in infants and children. Studies conducted in both developed and under developed nations have found that breast feeding is associated with significantly ( upto 64%) less diarrheal disease and the protective effect of breast feeding does not persist beyond two months after breast feeding is stopped. On the other hand, formula fed infants are found an upto 80% increased in the risk of developing diarrhea compared to breast fed infants and there is significantly more diarrheal disease in formula fed infants. Infection may be attributable to contamination of bottles, teats, milk, and food in infants who are not exclusively breastfed. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and there after complementary feedings while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond, enthusiastic support and involvement from clinicians, obstetricians and pediatricians, are essential in "breastfeeding vs formula feeding" issue and to reduce incidence of diarrheal diseases in infants and children."
AUTHOR
Muh Begum
PUBLISHED
2014 Journal of Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons
Yes
Yes
5
Exclusive Breast Feeding and Prevention of Diarrheal Diseases: A Study in Qatar
"OBJECTIVE: to explore the relationships between breast feeding and diarrhea and to assess the effect of exclusive breast feeding (EBF) on reducing the risk of diarrhea in Qatar. METHODS: this is a cross sectional survey carried out at the Well baby clinics and Pediatric clinics in the 11 Primary Health Care Centers and Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, in Qatar. A multistage sampling design was used and a representative sample of 1500 Qatari infants and preschool children with an age range of 0-3 years and mothers agedbetween 18 to 47 years were surveyed during the period from October 2006 to September 2008 in Qatar. Out of the 1500 mothers, 1278 agreed to participate in this study, with a response rate of 85.2%. Questionnaires were administered to women who were attending Primary Health Care (PHC) Centers for child immunization. Data about the child gathered included date of birth, gender, birth order, consanguinity, socio-economic conditions, age of mother, level of education of mother, occupation, mode of breast feeding, sterilization of bottle and incident of diarrhea during the interview. Univariate statistical methods were performed for statistical analysis. RESULTS: of the 1278 infants studied, more than half (59.3%) were exclusively breastfed, and the mean duration was11.4 (SD=6.7). The risk for presenting diarrhea was higher in formula fed (48.7%) and partiallybreastfed children (37.3%) when compared to EBF(32.5%). CONCLUSION: EBF plays an important role in reducing the incidence and severity of infantile diarrhea."
AUTHOR
Bener
PUBLISHED
2011 Revista Brasileira de Saúde Materno Infantil
Yes
Yes
6
Breastfeeding and the Risk for Diarrhea Morbidity and Mortality
"BackgroundLack of exclusive breastfeeding among infants 0-5 months of age and no breastfeeding among children 6-23 months of age are associated with increased diarrhea morbidity and mortality in developing countries. We estimate the protective effects conferred by varying levels of breastfeeding exposure against diarrhea incidence, diarrhea prevalence, diarrhea mortality, all-cause mortality, and hospitalization for diarrhea illness.MethodsWe systematically reviewed all literature published from 1980 to 2009 assessing levels of suboptimal breastfeeding as a risk factor for selected diarrhea morbidity and mortality outcomes. We conducted random effects meta-analyses to generate pooled relative risks by outcome and age category.ResultsWe found a large body of evidence for the protective effects of breastfeeding against diarrhea incidence, prevalence, hospitalizations, diarrhea mortality, and all-cause mortality. The results of random effects meta-analyses of eighteen included studies indicated varying degrees of protection across levels of breastfeeding exposure with the greatest protection conferred by exclusive breastfeeding among infants 0-5 months of age and by any breastfeeding among infants and young children 6-23 months of age. Specifically, not breastfeeding resulted in an excess risk of diarrhea mortality in comparison to exclusive breastfeeding among infants 0-5 months of age (RR: 10.52) and to any breastfeeding among children aged 6-23 months (RR: 2.18).ConclusionsOur findings support the current WHO recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life as a key child survival intervention. Our findings also highlight the importance of breastfeeding to protect against diarrhea-specific morbidity and mortality throughout the first 2 years of life."
AUTHOR
Laura M. Lamberti
PUBLISHED
2011 BMC Public Health
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
7
How protective is breast feeding against diarrhoeal disease in infants in 1990s England? A case-control study
"Aims: To assess the effect of several measures of infant feeding on diarrhoeal disease, and whether these effects vary according to markers of social deprivation.Methods: Case-control study of diarrhoeal disease cases presenting to 34 general practices in England. Controls were stratified on age group, area deprivation index for the practice, and whether or not the practice was in London. Data were available on 304 infants (167 cases and 137 controls).Results: After adjustment for confounders, breast feeding was associated with significantly less diarrhoeal disease. Associations were striking even in infants aged ⩾ 6 months. They did not vary by social class, but were greater in those living in rented council accommodation and in more crowded households. The effect of receiving no breast milk was stronger in more deprived areas than in less deprived areas. The effect of not receiving exclusive breast milk was stronger in more deprived areas than in less deprived areas. In formula fed infants, there was significantly more diarrhoeal disease in those not sterilising bottles/teats with steam or chemicals. The protective effect of breast feeding did not persist beyond two months after breast feeding had stopped.Conclusions: Breast feeding protects against diarrhoeal disease in infants in England although the degree of protection may vary across infants and wear off after breast feeding cessation. Education about the benefits of breast feeding and the risks of inadequate sterilisation should be targeted at carers in deprived areas or households."
AUTHOR
M A Quigley
PUBLISHED
2006 Archives of Disease in Childhood
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
8
Early Initiation of Breastfeeding and the Risk of Infant Diarrhea in Rural Egypt
"Background.Initiation of breastfeeding shortly after delivery may enhance breastfeeding's protective effect against diarrhea because of the protective properties of human colostrum contained in early breast milk.Objective.To evaluate whether initiation of breastfeeding within the first 3 days of life, when breast milk contains colostrum, was associated with a lower rate of diarrhea in rural Egyptian infants during the first 6 months of life.Methods.Infants initially breastfed (n = 198) were monitored prospectively with twice-weekly home visits to ascertain dietary practices and diarrheal illnesses.Results.The burden of diarrhea during the first 6 months of life in the cohort was high: seven episodes per child-year of follow-up. Only 151 (76%) infants initiated breastfeeding during the first 3 days of life (“early initiation”). Infants in whom breastfeeding was initiated early had a 26% (95% CI: 2%,44%) lower rate of diarrhea than those initiated late. The protective association between early initiation and diarrhea was independent of the pattern of postinitiation dietary practices and was evident throughout the first 6 months of life.Conclusions.Early initiation of breastfeeding was associated with a marked reduction of the rate of diarrhea throughout the first 6 months of life, possibly because of the salutary effects of human colostrum. These data highlight the need for interventions to encourage early initiation of breastfeeding in less developed settings."
AUTHOR
John D. Clemens
PUBLISHED
1999 Pediatrics
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes