You might hear that breastfeeding your baby in a lying down position will cause ear infections. Research indicates that this is not true. No matter what positioning you use, breastfeeding actually works to decrease the incidence of ear infections.
This myth is one of many that has come from a mistaken application of bottle-feeding information to breastfeeding. There is good evidence that if baby is given a bottle of formula while lying flat, the formula can get into the Eustachian tubes and middle ear and cause an infection. However, there are two problems with applying this fact to breastfeeding: (1) breastmilk and formula are not the same — breastmilk inhibits the formation of bacteria, while formula encourages bacteria; and (2) breastfeeding and bottle feeding are not the same — milk does not pool in the mouth when baby is nursing, as as it does when baby drinks from a bottle.
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Also, keep in mind that with most nursing positions, baby is lying down while nursing anyway – whether mom is lying down or not!
So don’t be afraid to lie down to nurse your baby. Go ahead and get your rest… while you nurse your baby.
“Myth 23: The lying-down nursing position causes ear infections” from Common Breastfeeding Myths by Lisa Marasco in Leaven, Vol. 34 No. 2, April-May 1998, pp. 21-24.
General information on ear infection prevention and treatment
Detecting an Ear Infection by Alan Greene MD FAAP
Ear infections from AskDrSears.com
Cause and Treatment of Ear Infections by Dr. Jay Gordon
Alternative Treatment for Ear Infections by Dr. Jay Gordon
Ear infection articles from Mothering.com
Ear infections and the Breastfed Baby by Paula Yount
Ear Infection Information from the American Academy of Pediatrics
Bottle Feeding And Ear Infections: A Formula For Disaster? by Craig Brown, MD
Research on breastfeeding and ear infections
The Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media from the American Academy of Pediatrics
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Dewey KG, Heinig J, Nommsen-Rivers LA. Differences in morbidity between breastfed and formula fed infants. J Pediatr 1995;126:696-702 (risk also increased in FF infant for diarrhea)
Sassen ML, Brand R, Grote JJ. Breastfeeding and acute otitis media. Am J Otolaryn 1994;15:351-7
Paradise JL, Elster BA, Tan L. Evidence in infants with cleft palate that breast milk protects against otitis media. Pediatrics 1994;94:853-60
Aniansson G, Alm B, Andersson B, Håkansson A, Larsson P, Nylén O, et al. A prospective cohort study on breastfeeding and otitis media in Swedish infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1994;13:183-8
Harabuchi Y, Faden H, Yamanaka N, Duffy L, Wolf J, Krystofik D. Human milk secretory IgA antibody to nontypeable Hæmophilus influenzæ: Possible protective effects against nasopharyngeal colonization. J Pediatr 1994;124:193-8
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Duncan B, Ey J, Holberg CJ, Wright AL, Martinez FD, Taussig LJ. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 4 months protects against otitis media. Pediatrics 1993;91:867-72
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Saarinen UM. Prolonged breastfeeding as prophylaxis for recurrent otitis media. Acta Pediatr Scand 1982;71:567-71