In a recent study published in Pediatrics, researchers suggested that increased breastfeeding, vaccine administration, and lower rates of smoking may be major factors in the reduced rate of ear infections in babies.

Rates of ear infection have significantly decreased since the late 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, the rates of ear infection dropped from 18% to 6% in 3-month-olds, from 39% to 23% in 6-month-olds, and from 62% to 46% in 1-year-olds. 

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Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston tracked 367 babies aged <1 month through their first birthday from October 2008 to March 2014. They compiled information on family history of ear infections, exposure to cigarette smoke, and breast vs. formula feeding. Nose and throat mucus samples were collected to detect infections. If their baby showed any signs of an ear infection or an upper respiratory infection; the baby was then seen by a study physician within 5 days. 

Significant reductions in both colds and ear infections were associated with prolonged breastfeeding, researchers reported. Major risk factors linked to ear infections were frequent upper respiratory infections, nasal carriage of bacteria, and lack of breastfeeding. 

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