APHA: Breast-feeding Decreases Mental Health Issues

Parents of breast-fed children worry less about their behavior
By Pat F. Bass, M.D.
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-fed children are less likely to experience behavioral or mental health issues than those who are not breast-fed, according to research presented this week at the American Public Health Association meeting in San Diego.

Katherine Hobbs Knutson, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a colleague examined 102,353 parent/ guardian interviews concerning the health of children aged 10 months to 18 years from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health. Parents were asked questions regarding breast-feeding and their children's behavior, and answers were analyzed via multivariate regression.

Parents/guardians of breast-fed children were significantly less likely (23 percent) to report apprehension over their children's ability to learn for themselves. Similarly, they were significantly less likely (24 percent) to report concern over learning in preschool. Odds of concern regarding the children's behavior, medically diagnosed behavioral/conduct problems and receipt of mental health care were decreased by 15 percent, 37 percent and 37 percent, respectively, in parents/guardians of breast-fed children compared with those of non-breast-fed children.

The authors conclude, "These findings support current evidence that breast feeding enhances childhood intellectual ability while providing new evidence that breast feeding may contribute to childhood emotional development and protect against psychiatric illness and behavioral problems."

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