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Breastfeeding Decreases Childhood Behavioral Problems

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Children who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from behavioral or mental health issues than those who are not breastfed, according to new research.

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The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association's 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, looked at whether breastfeeding is associated with decreased behavioral problems and psychiatric illness during childhood.

Using 2003 National Survey of Children's Health data from 102,353 interviews of parents and guardians on the health of their children, researchers found that parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern for the child's behavior, and breastfed children were less likely to have been diagnosed by a health professional with behavioral or conduct problems and were less likely to have received mental health care. Additionally, parents of breastfed children were less likely to report concern about the child's ability to learn.

"These findings support current evidence that breastfeeding enhances childhood intellectual ability while providing new evidence that breastfeeding may contribute to childhood emotional development and protect against psychiatric illness and behavioral problems," said Katherine Hobbs Knutson, MD, lead researcher on the study.