Breast feeding for over six months could aid mental health

Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:30pm EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Children who are breastfed for longer than six months could be at lower risk of mental health problems later in life, according to Australian research.

A study by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth looked at 2,366 children born to women enrolled in a pregnancy study in the state of Western Australia.

Each of the children underwent a mental health assessment when they were aged two, five, eight, 10, and 14.

The researchers found that breastfeeding could help babies cope better with stress and may signal a stronger mother-child attachment which could provide lasting benefits.

"Breastfeeding for a longer duration appears to have significant benefits for the onward mental health of the child into adolescence," researcher Dr. Wendy Oddy, who led the study, wrote in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Of the children in the study, 11 percent were never breastfed, 38 percent were breastfed for less than six months, and just over half were breastfed for six months or longer.

The mothers who breastfed for less than six months were younger, less educated, poorer, and more stressed, and were also more likely to be smokers than the mothers who breastfed longer.

They were also more likely to suffer from postpartum depression and their babies more likely to have growth problems.

At each of the assessments, the researchers found children who were breastfed for shorter periods of time had worse behavior which could translate into aggression or depression.   Continued...