It seems that breast feeding your child helps to prevent emotional and behavioural problems as they develop and enter the school system. This is the finding of a new report.

The recently published UK report, Breast feeding and child behaviour in the Millennium, took data from a large cohort to examine the association between the duration of breast-feeding and parent-reported behavioural development in 9,525 term and 512 preterm singleton white infants born between 2000 and 2001.

Parents were surveyed about feeding history when infants were age 9 months. This was followed up with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to assess their child’s behaviour at 5 years of age.

Overall, 29% of term and 21% of preterm infants were breast-fed for at least the first 4 months of life. Nearly 12% of term and 15% of preterm children had abnormal SDQ scores by the time they were 5 years old.

In logistic regression term infants who were breast-fed for at least 4 months had significantly lower odds of having abnormal SDQ scores than children who were never breast fed.

The findings suggest that breast feeding is associated with fewer parent-rated behavioural problems in children aged 5 years.

The study could not determine whether the benefit was a result of the nutrient content of breast milk or mother–infant attachment.

The message continues to be: breast is best for all infants.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source:  Heikkilä K et al. Breast feeding and child behaviour in the Millennium Cohort Study. Arch Dis Child 2011 Jul; 96:635.