Aim: To synthesise the evidence on the association between duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding and the risk of acute otitis media (AOM).
Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis following searching of PubMed, CINAHL and EMBASE electronic databases.
Results: Twenty-four studies, all from the USA or Europe, met the inclusion criteria. In the pooled analyses, any form of breastfeeding was found to be protective for AOM in the first 2 years of life. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months was associated with the greatest protection (OR 0.57 95% CI 0.44, 0.75), followed by 'more vs less' breastfeeding (OR 0.67; 0.59, 0.76) and 'ever vs never' breastfeeding (OR 0.67; 0.56, 0.80).
Conclusion: This systematic review and meta-analysis provides evidence that breastfeeding protects against AOM until 2 years of age, but protection is greater for exclusive breastfeeding and breastfeeding of longer duration. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months was associated with around a 43% reduction in ever having AOM in the first 2 years of life. After 2 years of age, there is no evidence that breastfeeding protects against AOM; however, there were few studies and the evidence quality was low.
Keywords: Breastfeeding; Child; Formula feeding; Otitis media.
©2015 The Authors. Acta Paediatrica published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation Acta Paediatrica.