Several studies suggest a lower incidence of infections in breast-fed compared to formula-fed infants. Most of these studies have been carried out in developing countries.
Our multicentre study in 5 European countries on the incidence of febrile episodes in the first year of life compared infant formulas with and without prebiotics. This analysis compared 416 infants fed the standard formula with 300 non-randomised breast-fed infants (243 exclusively breast-fed for ⩾4 months). Infants were examined five times. The number of febrile episodes (rectal temperature ⩾38.5°C recorded by the parents) was compared between the groups using a two-sided Van-Elteren test (see table).
Conclusions In contrast to expectations, we could not show a protective effect of breastmilk on the incidence of febrile episodes in the first year of life.
The incidence of febrile episodes in the first year of life is low in Western Europe.