It's well known that breastfeeding has a positive impact on child health, and now researchers from Tel Aviv University have found that breastfeeding could also help protect against ADHD. Their findings have been published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.
The researchers looked in detail at the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: a group that had been diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those diagnosed with ADHD; and a control group of children without ADHD and lacking any genetic ties to the disorder.
The researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration. Specifically, children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period.
In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child's life, the parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical and demographic 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.
But even taking all these other factors into account, the researchers still found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups.
While the researchers do not yet know why breastfeeding has an impact on the future development of ADHD - it could be due to the breast milk itself, or the special bond formed between mother and baby during breastfeeding, for example - 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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Source: Tel Aviv University