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Beginnings Guides Blog

Breastfeeding may promote better child behavior & adult health

On top of new evidence that breastfeeding protects against SIDS and asthma, researchers
report that breastfed babies are less likely to have behavioral problems as five year-olds,
and may grow up to be healthier adults.

 In a national survey, 9500 mothers of British babies born in 2000-2001 reported on their children’s
“strengths and difficulties”. Regardless of socio-economic status and parental factors, babies who
were breastfed at least four months were less likely to have potential behavior problems such as
unusual anxiety, restlessness, and inability to socialize with other children or play in groups. Six
percent of breastfed children had such problems compared to 16 percent for those not breastfed.
Researchers suggest that breast milk may contain chemicals important in brain and nervous system
development. Another possible explanation is the positive bonding and interaction that occurs during
breastfeeding. These findings suggest that breastfeeding is important for psychological development
as well as physical development.

Meanwhile French researchers followed three groups of infants for three years. In their first four
months of life, one group was breastfed; the second group was fed a high-protein formula, and
the third group a low-protein formula. By age three, children who were breastfed showed a different
pattern of growth and metabolic profile*. What these differences might mean over a lifetime remains
unclear. The findings from these two studies seem to suggest that nutrition at critical points early in
life can influence a person’s future health.

Formula not an equal option. Bottle feeding is often presented as an equal option to breastfeeding,
something akin to choosing between Coke and Pepsi. But Dr. Christiane Northup, author of Women’s
Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, says “Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that
thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature's evolution.” Evidence continues
to mount that formula cannot come close to the health protecting and promoting powers of breast milk.

Official Recommendationexclusive breast feeding for the first six months.  Nearly every health
organization in the developed world makes the same recommendation. No health authority recommends
formula feeding. So why are 87% U.S. babies growing up on formula? 

Wondering how to talk about breastfeeding during pregnancy? See Beginnings Pregnancy Guide, pages
62-63 and 80-81.

*Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical changes that occur in cells to allow growth and
maintain body functions. These include processes that break down substances to yield energy and
processes that build up other substances necessary for life. Metabolic profile refers to the substances
in the body that control metabolism.

References:

Preidt, R. (5.2.11) HealthDay. Breast-feeding May Influence Long-Term Health: Study. Available online

Kelland, K. (5.9.11) Reuters. Fewer behavior problems for breastfed kids: study. Available online until
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