UNICEF features CHILD Study research

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UNICEF, the world’s leading child-focused humanitarian organization, recently referenced CHILD Study research to bolster two campaigns, one in Canada and one in the UK, supportive of breastfeeding.

In April 2018, UNICEF Canada, featured CHILD Study research results in a campaign aimed at improving parental leave policies in Canada.

“CHILD research is helping to inform UNICEF’s efforts to advocate for better child and family policies, including parental leave take-up that will help more mothers continue breastfeeding and keep more babies healthy”, says UNICEF’S Director of Policy and Research, Lisa Wolff.

The research, led by CHILD investigator Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj (University of Alberta), was published in November 2017 in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

It found that infants born to mothers experiencing psychological distress (stress, depression, anxiety) had reduced levels of an important immune antibody in their feces in the first few months of life, which may put them at a higher risk of developing allergic disease.

Dr. Kozyrskyj and first author Liane Kang showed that infants have three times lower levels of Immunoglobulin A, or sigA (an immune antibody in infant’s gut), if their mothers experienced stress during and after pregnancy. When mothers experienced distress only during pregnancy, infants had lower sIgA levels than infants whose mothers were not distressed.

Another CHILD research finding was featured in June 2018 by UNICEF UK, as part of its Baby Friendly Initiative, which seeks to “enable public services to better support families with feeding and … ensuring that all babies get the best possible start in life.”

The research, published in June 2018 in JAMA Pediatrics, showed that exclusive breastfeeding in early infancy—the first three months—protects babies from becoming overweight by age one. The researchers believe this association is partially explained by the influence of breastfeeding on the infant gut microbiome.

“These results suggest that improved programs and policies to support exclusive breastfeeding could have a meaningful impact on infant health,” says co-author Dr. Meghan Azad (University of Manitoba) in a press release.

UNICEF UK highlighted this finding alongside other relevant research on a page of its Baby Friendly Initiative website focusing on overweight and obesity in infants.