Protection Against Ear Infections

Did you know that 2 out of 3 children get an ear infection by the time they’re 3 years old? If you’re breastfeeding, you may not have encountered an ear infection yet. That’s because breastfeeding is protective against this type of common childhood illness.

Ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses in the fluid in the middle ear behind the eardrum. They tend to show up a week or so after a child has had a cold. The tiny passages in babies’ and toddlers’ middle ears don't drain as well as the larger ones in older children and adults, so fluid can build up and become infected more easily.

Symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • tugging or swatting at the ear
  • complaining of ear pain
  • sniffling
  • poor sleep
  • restlessness
  • irritability and crying when lying down
  • possibly a fever 


If your baby has an earache, you can help him feel better with infant pain reliever until the fluid drains and the infection clears. (Be sure to talk to your doctor about the correct dosage.)

Fluid in the ear without infection can cause mild discomfort but doesn't need to be treated with antibiotics. Studies have shown that 80% of ear infections clear up without antibiotic treatment. Still, suspected earaches should still be looked at by a medical professional to rule out other causes and to prescribe antibiotics if appropriate.

Standard infant vaccines for H. influenzae and pneumococcus bacteria have decreased ear infections significantly.

See also ...

•  Ear infections in children

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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