Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Breastfed babies develop fewer behaviour problems (BMJ)

BBC Health News reported May 11, 2011 that breastfed babies have fewer behavioral problems with comparison to formula fed babies based on results of Millenium Cohort Study.

"10 037 mother–child pairs from white ethnic background (9525 term and 512 preterm children) were included in the analyses. Duration of breast feeding (at all or exclusively) was ascertained from parental interview at study baseline, when the children were aged 9 months. Child behaviour was assessed using a parent-completed questionnaire, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The authors used logistic regression to investigate the associations of breastfeeding duration with abnormal parent-rated SDQ total and subscores at age 5 in term and preterm children separately."

The mothers were asked to assess problems in their children by the age of five, including anxiousness and clinginess, restlessness, and lying or stealing. Only 6% of children who were breastfed showed signs of behaviour problems, compared with 16% of children who were formula-fed.

Results Abnormal SDQ scores were less common in term children (n=1129/9525, 12%) than pre-term (n=78/512, 15%) children. Term children breast fed for 4 months or longer (n=2741/9525, 29%) had lower odds of an abnormal total SDQ score (multivariable-adjusted OR compared with never breastfed children (n=3292/9525, 35%) 0.67, 95% CI: 0.54 to 0.83). This effect was similar for all the SDQ subscores. In preterm children, longer duration of breast feeding was generally associated with lower odds of abnormal SDQ total and subscores but the effect estimates were imprecise. The associations between exclusive breast feeding and abnormal SDQ scores were similar to those of any breast feeding and abnormal SDQ scores.

Conclusions The findings suggest that, at least in term children, longer duration of breast feeding is associated with fewer parent-rated behavioural problems in children aged 5 years. 

With breastfeeding more factors come to play:
1. Ideal concentration of nutritients in breastmilk
2. Bonding between mother and her baby ( interaction & closeness)
3. Better overall health of the baby
Breast milk contains large quantities of a particular type of fatty acid, as well as growth factors and hormones, which were important for the development of the brain and nervous system. But mothers who breastfeed also tend to interact with their children more, which could mean the babies learn more about acceptable ways of behaving. Breastfed children also get ill less often, which may affect their behaviour. 

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