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Breast feeding reduces anxiety

by editor2
August 5th, 2006

Breastfeeding’s calming effects seem to be long lasting. Years after being weaned, breast-fed children cope better with stressful situations like their parents’ divorce than their bottle-fed peers.

In children who are breast-fed, there is less of an association between parental divorce and separation and childhood anxiety. Breast milk is full of nutrients, hormones, enzymes, growth factors and antibodies that are passed from mother to child. Research has shown breast-feeding reduces infections, respiratory illness and diarrhoea in the child and cuts the risk of after-birth bleeding in the mother.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, studied how breast- and bottle-fed 10-year-olds coped with the stress of their parents’ marital problems. The children were among 9,000 youngsters who had been monitored from birth. Their teachers were asked to rate their anxiety level on a scale of 0-50. There was a higher level of stress in all the children but the breast-fed youngsters coped better.

The anxiety was much less obvious in children who were breast-fed. The researchers do not know why breast-fed babies were less anxious. They suggested breast-feeding could be an indicator of other parental factors or the physical contact between the mother and the child may have helped to reduce anxiety. Breast-feeding could also influence the development of pathways in the body linked with its response to stress.

The more breast-feeding is looked into, the more benefits are seen. As this is something that is, in evolutionary terms, normal it is likely to be important in normal human development

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