Breast feeding and child behaviour.
Child development (Nutritional aspects)
Breast feeding (Research)
Breast feeding (Psychological aspects)
Breast feeding (Nutritional aspects)
Children (Nutritional aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism Publisher: National Herbalists Association of Australia Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 National Herbalists Association of Australia ISSN: 1033-8330|
|Issue:||Date: Fall, 2011 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research Canadian Subject Form: Child behaviour; Child behaviour|
Heikkila K, Sacker A, Kelly Y et al. 2011. Breast feeding and child
behaviour in Millennium Cohort Study. Arch Dis Child 96;635-42.
In most observational studies breastfed children have had fewer behavioural problems than formula fed children. However these results have been dismissed previously due to too many confounding factors.
Behavioural problems are defined as inappropriate behaviours that occur repeatedly over a period of time, have a negative impact on the child's development and interfere with the child's or their family's everyday life. These may encompass emotional symptoms (e.g. clingy behaviour, anxiety), hyperactivity (e.g. restlessness) or conduct problems (e.g. lying, stealing).
This study examined whether the duration of breast feeding (at all or exclusively) was associated with parent rated measures of behavioural development in children aged 5 years. The Millenium Cohort Study (MCS) is a survey of infants born in the UK during a 12 month period in 2000-2001.
Baseline data was collected by trained interviewers when the cohort infants were 9 months, after which participant households were followed up with home interviews at 2 year intervals. Child behaviour was assessed using a parent completed questionnaire, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
The analyses included 10 037 mother/child pairs from white ethnic background (9525 term and 512 preterm children). Mother/child pairs from non white and mixed ethnic groups were excluded due to a considerable proportion (36%-41%) of these not responding to the SDQ. Children born extremely prematurely (before 28 weeks of gestation) were excluded because of their complicated feeding patterns during the first months which may not have been adequately captured in the MCS.
Breastfeeding initiation was equally common in term and preterm children (65% in both groups). Twenty-nine per cent of term children and 21% of preterm children were breast fed for at least 4 months (mean duration of breast feeding 9.8 and 9.6 months respectively). A larger proportion of preterm (15.2%) than term children (11.9%) had abnormal total SDQ scores.
The study found that abnormal SDQ scores were less common in breastfed than formula fed children, confirming data from previous studies.
Term children breastfed for 4 months or longer (n = 2741, 29%) had lower odds of an abnormal total SDQ score. After adjustment for potential confounders (socioeconomic factors, mother's mental health, mother/ baby attachment, early childhood exposures), exclusive breast feeding for 4 months or longer was associated with lower odds of abnormal emotional and conduct scores.
The effect of breast feeding on emotional and prosocial subscores in preterm children could not be estimated due to the small numbers of children with abnormal scores. Longer duration of breast feeding was associated with lower odds of abnormal SDQ total and subscores however results were not statistically significant.
The researchers proposed that the association of breast feeding with child behaviour is due to beneficial compounds in breast milk including large amounts of essential long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), growth factors and hormones. These play an important role in the development and function of the brain and central nervous system.
A further factor is that breast feeding leads to more interaction between mother and child, better learning of acceptable behaviour and fewer behavioural problems. However in this analysis having been breast fed for 4 months or longer was associated with fewer behavioural problems independently of mother/baby interaction.
Some limitations to this study include possible recall bias by parents (mothers) interviewed, possible exposure misclassification, inability to assess types of formula/ supplemental milks fed to infants and only involving white singleton children.
Kathleen Murphy MNHAA
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