Babies who are breastfed develop fewer behavioural problems, new study finds
Well, this is interesting.
According to a brand new study, babies who are breastfed for the first three months of their life – or longer – develop fewer behavioural problems later on down the line than those who are not.
Researchers took data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the lives of nearly 20,000 people born in the UK between 2000 and 2002, and looked at the long-term effects of breastfeeding on children’s behaviour at the ages of three, five, seven, 11, and 14.
And what they found was that those children who had been breastfed for a minimum of three months as babies were less prone to issues with concentration when they were older. As well as this, children who had been breastfed for at least three months saw less struggles forming friendships and had fewer periods of anxiety.
Interestingly, this was found to be the case even allowing for other influencing factors such as maternal education, maternal psychological distress and family socioeconomic status.
Around 11,000 people – children, parents, and teachers, contributed to this research, and the study, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, concludes:
‘This study offers further evidence consistent with the idea that breastfeeding plays a crucial role in children’s socioemotional behavioural development. ‘Longer breastfeeding durations are associated with fewer behavioural problems in the short and long terms, though future research is required to illuminate the mechanisms.
‘Results support current healthcare policies that seek to encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of the infant’s life.’
While the study did not examine explanations for why breastfed babies might develop fewer behavioural problems, lead author Lydia Speyer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, puts forward some theories. She suggests that it could be down to the oxytocin released by breastfeeding, which has a positive effect on mood and reduces stress.