Fewer behavior problems for breastfed kids: study

Tue May 10, 2011 11:47am EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Babies who are breastfed are less likely to grow into children with behavior problems by the time they reach the age of five than those who receive formula milk, scientists said on Tuesday.

In a study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, British researchers used a "strengths and difficulties" questionnaire completed by parents about their children and found that abnormal scores were less common in children who were breastfed for at least four months.

Maria Quigley of the national perinatal epidemiology unit at Oxford University, who led the work, said the findings "provide even more evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding."

"Mothers who want to breastfeed should be given all the support they need. Many women struggle to breastfeed for as long as they might otherwise like, and many don't receive the support that might make a difference," she said in a statement.

Some benefits of breastfeeding are already well known -- for example breastfed babies have lower rates of infections, and mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

A range of other health and child development benefits have also been suggested -- such as fewer behavioral problems and lower levels of obesity -- but the British team said evidence for these has been inconsistent across different studies.

In this study researchers from the universities of Oxford, Essex, York and from University College London used a nationwide British survey of babies born in 2000-2001 called the Millennium Cohort Study and included data for more than 9,500 mothers and babies born at full term to families of white ethnic background.

They used data on whether mothers had breastfed and how long for and combined these with the results of the "strengths and difficulties" questionnaire used for identifying children with possible behavioral problems.   Continued...

 
<p>Mothers participate in a demonstration in front of a clothing store in a shopping mall in Montreal, January 19, 2011. An employee had requested a mother not breastfeed in their store earlier in the month, prompting a group of about 60 mothers to hold a "nurse-in". REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>