Breastfeeding can have a lifelong effect on mental health, study finds
According to many studies, early life experiences set the stage for physical health in later life.
In fact, according to this study, reducing early toxic stress is key to preventing disease in adults.
And breastfeeding is one way more and more scientist agree you can decrease early toxic stress, as several recent studies have shown that breastfeeding increases babies’ physical and mental well-being, and these effects go well beyond the composition of the milk.
What researchers have been keen to investigate, is how maternal responsiveness seems to be key to understanding these long-term effects. The reason? Because when mothers consistently respond to their babies’ cues, they set the stage for lifelong resiliency in their offspring. And because responsiveness is built into the breastfeeding relationship, this is seen reflected in children’s mental health.
According to a 2009 study of 2,900 mother-infant pairs, researchers discovered that breastfeeding for one year was associated with better child mental health at every age up to age of 14.
Talk about maximum result for your input. Oh, and longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with better child mental health at every assessment point too.
Good for baby, great for mums too
As well as having a real, documented effect on the mental health of children, breastfeeding has also been proven to reduce the risk of depression and postnatal depression in mothers too, with this study showing it is protective of maternal mental health.
One reason researcher believe breastfeeding lowers depression risk is the impact it has on parental sleep, with studies showing that exclusively breastfeeding mothers fare better than their mixed- or formula-feeding counterparts in terms if toal length of sleep, how long it takes them to get to sleep and perceived daytime fatigue.