Chalk up another health benefit from breastfeeding. New research out of Tel Aviv University has found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, even when other known risk factors are taken into consideration.
For the study, researchers led by Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, M.D., of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and head of the Child Neurodevelopmental Center in Loewenstein Hospital, compared the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: those diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those with ADHD; and children without ADHD.
The researchers tracked breastfeeding histories of children from six to 12 years of age at Schneider's Children Medical Center in Israel. In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child's life, parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical data that might also have an impact on the development of ADHD, including marital status and education of the parents, problems during pregnancy such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child, and genetic links to ADHD.
The researchers found children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period. At three months, only 43 percent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 percent of the sibling group and 73 percent of the others. At six months, 29 percent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the others.
While researchers do not yet know why breastfeeding can help prevent ADHD — it could be due to the breast milk itself or the special bond formed between mother and baby during breastfeeding — they believe the research shows that breastfeeding can have a protective effect against the development of the disorder, and can be counted as an additional biological advantage for breastfeeding.
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