Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mom and baby. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health indicates that breastfeeding protects infants from respiratory infections, diarrhea, and ear infections. As breastfed babies age, they also experience a lower risk of asthma and obesity. Mothers can also reap benefits, including a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Unfortunately, the science behind most of the other breastfeeding studies is mixed. For example, some studies indicate that breastfed babies may reap cognitive development benefits. Others suggest babies might suffer from fewer behavioral issues. However, these studies, along with a recent one on the potential protection against hyperactivity among breastfed infants, should be taken with a grain of salt.
“The belief that babies who are breastfed have advantages in their cognitive development, in particular, has been a topic of debate for over a century now,” Lisa-Christine Girard, lead researcher on the new study, told CBS News.
She and her team uncovered this somewhat improved cognition, particularly when it came to vocabulary and problem-solving skills. They even found that breastfed babies may have fewer behavioral issues if one simply takes the parent-reported ratings at face value. However, many of those connections were said to be linked to other factors, the authors say. (Examples included the mother’s education and the family’s socioeconomic status.)
Still, the team couldn’t overlook the intriguing discovery on hyperactivity – a rising issue in schools across the world, particularly in the U.S.
Published in the March edition of Pediatrics, the study examined data on roughly 8,000 Irish families and compared the results of breastfed babies against those that had not been nursed. Overall, the babies who had been breastfed were less likely to suffer from hyper active behaviors than their formula-fed peers.
Interestingly enough, that link seemed to disappear around age five. Study authors suggest this may be due to the change in external influences – going from a home environment to a place where they are surrounded by peers.
“[Other factors might] exert a larger role on children’s hyperactivity once the home environment is no longer the predominant environment in which children spend the majority of their waking hours,” Girard said.
Girard did point out that there are limitations to their study, and she explained that sorting out which factors are related to home life, and which are related to breastfeeding can be difficult to distinguish. After all, child development is a highly complex matter. Still, the real and true benefits of nursing a baby cannot be understated – especially in places where the rates of obesity and asthma are high (such as in America). And the lack of definitive answers related to development and behavior does not diminish the protection that breast milk offers from certain illnesses and infections.
Still, the real and true benefits of nursing a baby cannot be understated – especially in places where the rates of obesity and asthma are high (such as in America). And the lack of definitive answers related to development and behavior does not diminish the protection that breast milk offers from certain illnesses and infections.
So, with or without cognitive and language benefits, mothers are still encouraged to breastfeed exclusively until six months and continue nursing until the baby reaches one year of age. Unfortunately, doing so can be difficult for American mothers – especially since many must return to work shortly after giving birth. In these situations, it may be best to discuss your desire to nurse with your employer and to ask how you can make it work for the benefit of your baby.