Early findings suggest that parents of youngsters who were breastfed as infants were less likely to report that their child had a behavior problem or psychiatric illness during the first five years of life.
And the likelihood of mental health issues decreased in proportion to the duration of breastfeeding, meaning that a child who had been breastfed for a year was less likely to have behavior problems than a child who had been breastfed for just two months.
The study, conducted by the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, reviewed more than 100,000 interviews of parents and guardians of children between the ages of 10 months and 18 years who participated in the National Survey of Children’s Health. Parents were asked about breastfeeding and about their child’s behavior and mental health.
Examples of questions included:
- Are you currently concerned a lot, a little or not at all about how your child behaves?
- How he/she is learning pre-school or school skills?
- Has a doctor or health professional ever told you that your child has behavioral or conduct problems?
- Parents of children who were breastfed were 15% less likely to be concerned about their child’s behavior, compared to formula-fed infants.
- And the breastfed children were 37% less likely to have a medically diagnosed behavioral or conduct problem.
Dr. Katherine Hobbs Knutson, a resident in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said, the effect of breastfeeding appeared to be cumulative, with those who were breastfed for a longer duration even less likely to have behavior problems.
She also said the study found “a correlation between breastfeeding and cognitive development.”
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