It is common knowledge that the breast is best for infant’s health, cognitive, and physical development. Breastfeeding is also better for the environment. A new study from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm also claims that children who were breastfed as infants are better able to cope with stress and have less anxiety. Breastfeeding is good for children’s mental health too!
Researchers in Sweden and the United Kingdom collected data on almost 9000 children. They found,
Not surprisingly, children whose parents had divorced or separated were more likely to have high anxiety. But what the researchers found striking was the difference in stress levels between breast-fed and bottle-fed kids. Breast-fed children were significantly less anxious than kids who hadn’t nursed at their mother’s breast.
The researchers discovered that breastfeeding during the early stages of life enables children to better cope with stress when they are older. It is not clear if the positive results are due to the close physical contact that occurs during breastfeeding, breastfeeding itself, or how breastfeeding may help establish an early bond between mother and child.
My favorite book on breastfeeding is The Nursing Mother’s Companion. This was required reading by my midwives, and I am thankful for it. I highly recommend it for any new mother. For more information on breastfeeding, visit our posts:
Initiation of Breastfeeding by the Breast Crawl
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MC Milker says
Interesting information about breastfeeding and kids whose parents had separated or divorced. This comes at a time when, as I’ve been reading – some mothers are opting to bottle feed pumped milk! Kinda defeats the bonding purpose.
Good phrase to read which reveals the even some general basic information in our daily life can yield the anxiety.The text provided is the best example that breastfeeding for small kids can yield anxiety.
I’m a 31 year old male and was never breastfed. I have social anxiety.
Patricia Hoy says
I believe the study on breastfeeding and mental health is yet another “correlation” but not necessarily a causation.
As a mother of two children, the first not breastfed (for a variety of reasons which I will explain below) and a second who is currently breastfed, I fully believe that many elements of temperament are innate in a child. My firstborn is a very high strung, intense little girl. From the moment of birth she did not have any patience for breastfeeding. I tend to have low supply and slow letdown to begin with, and this situation, after 2 1/2 frustrating weeks of trying to get her to latch, every feed wound up with her screaming and batting at my breasts, me eventually dissolving into tears, and a bottle at the end of an emotional 30 minutes of trying (I did this every 1.5 hours for 10 days straight – the emotional effects on me were horrendous). After 2 1/2 weeks of this I completely gave up even trying as it was too traumatic for both of us. Even fully bottle fed, my daughter had a fuse of about 3 milliseconds in which she turned from a contented happy baby to an extremely hysterical, hungry child. At 3 years of age she is still a very demanding, fussy child who needs a lot of structure, a lot of reassurance and a lot of guidance.
My son, who is 3 months old, has happily nursed away on my low-supply, slow letdown breasts since his birth in July of 2008. Due to supply issues that have not resolved no matter what I tried, I have had to supplement after each breastfeed with a bottle and he has happily accepted whatever feeding method was presented to him. Even when hungry, he will even nurse for a long time on empty breasts which has been a good thing to help increase my milk supply (increased yes, but still not adequate for 100% exclusive breastfeeding).
My daughter never put up with the low supply situation and my son happily did. My daughter has always been a much more high strung child which has been evident from birth and there’s no amount of breastfeeding that would have “fixed” her anxiety problems. I believe it was my low supply problem (and slow milk coming in – took 10 days) combined with her innate personality that prevented her from breastfeeding in the first place.
So in my mind, this begs the question – is this study examining correlation or causation? Are babies that can breastfeed successfully just more calm and patient by nature, or is it the breastfeeding that made them that way?