New study shows long term mental health benefits from extended breastfeeding
A new study from Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health
Research has shown that children who are breastfed for longer than
six months have a lower risk of mental health problems as they
enter their teen years.
The research, led by Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, will be published in the next edition of The Journal of Pediatrics.
Dr Oddy said breastfeeding for a longer duration appears to have significant benefits for the mental health of the child into adolescence.
"There has been much evidence about the benefits of early breastfeeding, but the importance of this study is that it shows continued benefits from extended feeding," Dr Oddy said.
"Given the rising prevalence of mental health problems, interventions to assist mothers to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for longer, could be of long term benefit to the community.
"As with any of these types of studies, it should be stressed that the findings do not mean that individual children that weren't breastfed will have mental health problems, it's about lowering the risk at a population level."
The research team analysed data from more than 2000 children involved in Western Australia's Raine Study. Just over half were breastfed for six months or longer, 38% percent were breastfed for less than six months, eleven percent were not breastfed.
The participants underwent a mental health assessment when they were 2, 5, 8, 10, and 14 years old.
At each of the assessments, the researcher team found a link between breastfeeding duration and behaviour. For each additional month of breastfeeding, the behaviour score improved. This remained valid after adjustment for socio-economic, social and other factors impacting on parenting.
Dr Oddy said breastfeeding could help babies cope better with stress.
"There are a number of ways extended breastfeeding could assist child development. We know that breast milk is packed full of nutrients that help with the rapid brain development that occurs in the early years. It might also signal a strong mother-child attachment and these benefits may last."
The Long-Term Effects of Breastfeeding on Child and Adolescent Mental Health: A Pregnancy Cohort Study Followed for 14 Years, Wendy H. Oddy, PhD, Garth E. Kendall, PhD, Jianghong Li, PhD, Peter Jacoby, MSc, Monique Robinson, BA (Hons) Psych,Nicholas H. de Klerk, PhD, Sven R. Silburn, MSc, Stephen R. Zubrick, PhD, Louis I. Landau, MD, and Fiona J. Stanley, MD, The Journal of Pediatrics, published online Dec 14, 2009.
About the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
Based in Perth, Western Australia, the Institute has more than 450 staff dedicated to improving child health and wellbeing. Established in 1990, it has forged an international reputation for excellence in research in fields including childhood cancers, asthma and allergies, mental health, birth defects, child development, infectious disease and Aboriginal child health.
About the Raine Study
The Raine Study is jointly conducted by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and The School of Women's and Infant's Health at the University of Western Australia. The study started in 1989, when 2900 pregnant women were recruited into a research study at King Edward Memorial Hospital to examine ultrasound imaging. The mothers were assessed at 18 weeks of pregnancy, again during pregnancy and at birth. Information was collected on the mother and the father, for example diet, exercise, work, health, etc.
The research team at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research have assessed the children at birth, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14 and 17 years of age. At each follow-up, information is collected from the parents and the child. Find out more at www.rainestudy.org.au
Last updated: Friday, April 13, 2012