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May 14, 2011

Breastfed babies surveyed may have better behaviors

 
 Angelina Jolie is breastfeeding her baby

Adding fuel to the breast vs. bottle debate, a new study out of Oxford University has found that babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop behavior problems by the age of 5 than those who are formula-fed, reports Reuters.
The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, used a “strengths and difficulties” questionnaire completed by parents about their children. Researchers found that babies breastfed for at least 4 months were 30 percent less likely to show a range of behavioral problems by age 5.
Plus: 36 Tips for Breastfeeding Success
Researchers from the universities of Oxford, Essex, York, and from University College London used the Millennium Cohort Study, a nationwide British survey of babies born in 2000-2001, and included data for over 9,500 moms and full-term babies of white ethnic background. Using data on whether the mothers had breastfed and for how long, combined with their answers to the “strengths and difficulties” questionnaire used to identify kids with possible behavioral problems, they found that only 6 percent of children who were breastfed for at least 4 months had abnormal scores (which indicate potential behavioral problems like unusual anxiety, restlessness, difficulty socializing with other kids or playing in groups), as opposed to 16 percent of children who were formula-fed. The researchers said that they took into account other important influences such as socioeconomic or parental factors.
Plus: Suck it! The REAL Way to Prep for Breastfeeding
The researchers explained that one theory behind the findings is that breast milk contains lots of essential long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, growth factors and hormones which aid in brain and nervous system development. Another explanation for the findings may be based in greater interaction and bonding between mother and baby during breastfeeding.
What’s your reaction to these findings? Do you think breastfeeding can make for better behavior in kids?


Babies who are breast-fed for several months develop fewer behavioral problems in early childhood than those who are bottle-fed, researchers have said.

The British study which involved around 10,000 mothers and their babies found that breastfeeding for at least four months lowered the risk of behavioral problems in children aged five by one third.

Researchers say the findings, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, add to a wealth of existing evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Children raised on bottled milk formula tended to show more signs of anxiety, hyperactivity or lying and stealing, researchers found.

"We're not necessarily talking about tearaway, unmanageable five-year-old kids," said Maria Quigley from Oxford University, who led the research.

"It might be unusual anxiousness, restlessness, inability to socialize with other children or play fully in groups."



Scientists said the results could be explained either by the fatty acids in breast milk which aid brain development or the bonding between mother and child, which may affect learned behavior.

Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Essex, York and University College London analyzed data from a survey of 10,037 infants born in the UK between 2000 and 2001, who took part in the the wider Millennium Cohort Study.

Mothers were asked to assess the behavior of their children by the age of five, giving scores for different behaviors, such as clinginess and restlessness.

Raw figures showed that only six percent of breast-fed children were given abnormal scores indicating behavioral problems, compared with 16 percent of formula-fed children.

However, mothers who breast-fed tend to be older, better educated and from a higher socio-economic background than those who don't, the study said.



Researchers therefore adjusted the figures to take those factors into account, concluding that there was a 30 percent greater risk of behavioral problems among formula-fed children.

"Our results provide even more evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding," Quigley added.

"Mothers who want to breastfeed should be given all the support they need."

Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives, agreed that the study backed evidence that breastfeeding is best for babies but warned against victimizing women who choose not to.



"We need to be careful to keep a balance when interpreting the results, so that we do not send a negative message to mothers that they have failed or make them feel guilty because they bottle-fed their babies," she said.

AFP
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