Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Breast-fed babies grow better behaved

Breastfed babies are better behaved children
© Oleg Kozlov -
Children who are breastfed are less likely to develop behaviour problems, according to a UK study.

Researchers have found that babies who are breastfed for at least four months are less likely to show a range of emotional and behavioural problems by the time they reach the age of five, compared to those who were given formula milk.

In the study, researchers at Oxford, Essex and York universities and University College London, investigated whether child behaviour was linked to infant feeding.

Researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study to track the progress of more than 10,000 babies born in the UK between 2000-2001.

The babies' mothers were interviewed when their child was nine months old about feeding habits, and re-interviewed at two yearly intervals.

The researchers used a questionnaire designed to identify potential child behavioural problems by the age of five, including anxiety and clinginess, restlessness, and lying or stealing.

Only six per cent of children who were breastfed for at least four months showed signs of behavioural problems compared with 16 per cent of children who were formula fed as babies.

Breast milk contains large amounts of essential long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, growth factors and hormones which play an important role in the development and function of the brain and central nervous system.

As essential fatty acids have only been added to formula milk in the past ten years, this may help explain the results, the researchers said.

They added that breastfeeding leads to more interaction between mother and child, better learning of acceptable behaviour and thus fewer behavioural problems.

Writing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, the authors concluded: “Our findings suggest that longer duration of breastfeeding (at all or exclusively) is associated with having fewer parent-rated behavioural problems in term children.”

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