Previous studies have linked numerous benefits to breastfeeding, for both mom and baby. But can breastfeeding actually reduce the risks of ADHD in children? A recent study, published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, seems to suggest so.
Led by Aviva Mimouni-Block, MD, of the Tel-Aviv University (TAU) Sackler Faculty of Medicine, scientists compared the breastfeeding history of children between the ages of 6 and 12. For the study, researchers recruited three groups of children – one group of children that had been diagnosed with ADHD and two controls. The first control group consisted of non-ADHD children who had a sibling with the condition. Children from the second control group did not have any immediate siblings with the condition, nor did they have it themselves.
Mothers were asked if they breastfed exclusively, supplemented with formula, or gave formula exclusively at specific durations throughout the child’s first year of life (1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year). Along with information about their breastfeeding choices, mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked about their educational, psychosocial, medical status, pregnancy and perinatal details.
Data revealed that children with ADHD were less likely to have been breastfed at 3 and 6 months of age than children without the condition. In total, only 43% of the children of ADHD were breastfed at 3 months, and only 29% were breastfed at six months. In comparison, 69% and 50% of children who had siblings with ADHD were breastfed at 3 and 6 months, respectively. Children who did not have any family ties to ADHD had a breastfeeding rate of 73% at three months and 57% at six months.
But even with the convincing evidence, researchers say that a cause and effect conclusion cannot be made at this time.
“Whether the lesser exposure to breastfeeding in ADHD children is casually associated with ADHD or, in the contrary, a consequence of early abnormalities of feeding behavior at the breast cannot be determined from the current study,” authors concluded in the study publication. “We speculate that prevention, at least partial, of ADHD may be added to the list of the multiple biological advantages of human milk feeding.”
Still, the information should spark more research in the area so that more can be understood if, how and maybe even why breastfeeding provides protection from a neurological condition that has been found in recent studies to have life-long implications.
“Breastfeeding has been shown to have a positive impact on child development, good health, and protection against illness. Now, another possible benefit of breastfeeding for three months and especially six months or longer has been identified. This study opens another avenue of investigation in the prevention of ADHD,” Ruth Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics University of Rochester School of Medicine told Medical News Today.
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