According to researchers at Oxford University, children who are breastfed at least four months experience less behavior problems at age five.
Science Daily reports on the study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood:
‘We found that children who were breastfed for at least four months were less likely to have behavioural problems at age 5,’ says Maria Quigley.
‘However, that observation might not have been the direct result of breastfeeding — it could have been down to a number of factors,’ she explains. ‘As a group, mothers who breastfed for four months were very different socially to those who formula fed. They were more likely to be older, better educated and in a higher socio-economic position, on average.
‘Having controlled for these and other differences between the groups, we found there was still a 30% lower risk of behaviour problems associated with prolonged breastfeeding.’
I’m not surprised by the results of this study, but I do think the title of the Science Daily article “Prolonged Breastfeeding May Be Linked to Fewer Behavior Problems” is a bit misleading. When the AAP recommends, “Exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child,” I hardly think four months is considered “prolonged”.
Science Daily continues:
It is possible to suggest possible causes for the relationship between breastfeeding and reduced likelihood of problem behaviour. It may be that there is something in the breast milk that leads to improved neurological development and behavioural learning in children. Or the close physical contact during breastfeeding may lead to more mother-baby interaction and better communication. Or the reduced illness experienced by babies who are breastfed.
Maria Quigley says, ‘We just don’t know whether it is because of the constituents in breast milk which are lacking in formula, or the close interaction with the mum during breastfeeding, or whether it is a knock-on effect of the reduced illness in breastfed babies. But it does begin to look like we can add fewer behavioural problems as another potential benefit of breastfeeding.’
I think it is probably a combination of factors. From health benefits to social and emotional development, breast is always best! As evident in the above study, even four months is enough to show positive changes in children’s behavior. Who doesn’t want a well-behaved child?