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Good news for breast-fed babies

Consumer Reports News: June 01, 2011 03:18 PM


Here’s yet more evidence that breast feeding your baby is a good thing.

A recent study reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, found that breastfed babies are less likely to become children with behavior problems by the time they’re five years old compared to children who were fed formula. The benefits applied for babies who were nursed for at least four months.

The research was based on a British study of 10,037 white mother-child pairs. The babies were born during 2000-2001 and have been followed approximately every two years since they were nine months old.

Parents filled out questionnaires asking about such potential behavioral problems as hyperactivity, conduct like lying or stealing, or clinginess and anxiety. six percent of the breast fed children exhibited those behaviors at five, while 16 percent of the formula-fed children demonstrated these behaviors.

What makes this study distinctive is its large scale that allowed the authors to separate out socioeconomic and parental factors, which did account for some of the differences in behavior. This in turn allowed them to focus specifically on the benefits of breast feeding.

The authors suggest some possibilities for why breast-feeding makes a difference. Breast milk itself contains large amounts of essential long-chain fatty acids that are known to be important in children’s cognitive and central nervous system development. Additionally, the authors suggest that there are intrinsic benefits to the act of breast feeding itself that lead to closer bonding between mother and child, which in turn offers more opportunities for the child to learn acceptable behaviors.

“This fits with what we know about overall infant development,” said Richard J. Schanler, MD, associate chair, department of pediatrics and chief of neonatal-perinatal medicine at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York at North Shore in Manhasset, NY. Dr. Schanler is also chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics section on breastfeeding. “IQ, mental and motor development, and better vision and hearing all seem to be improved in babies who were breast-fed.”

The AAP recommends that babies be breast fed for the first year, and exclusively for the first six months, said Dr. Schanler.

Find buying advice and Ratings (available to subscribers) for a wide range of products for babies and kids, including buying advice for bottle and nipples, breast pumps, and infant formula.

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Merri Rosenberg


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