Thursday, August 03, 2006

Breast-feeding reduces anxiety into childhood

We seem to be going from one extreme to the other today...elderly to newborns.

Here is a reprint of a news story on breastfeeding, child development, and anxiety. While I certainly agree that breastfeeding is best, I believe that the researchers in this article are not giving enough weight to the human contact between mother and child. A breastfeeding mother must hold and be close to her child, while a bottle-feeding mother often leaves her child in a carrier or crib. The close human contact the breast-fed baby receives may actually be the more important "ingredient" in reducing anxiety into childhood.

By Patricia Reaney Thu Aug 3,2006 8:11 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Breast-feeding'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, researchers said on Thursday.

"In children who are breast-fed, there is less of an association between parental divorce and separation and childhood anxiety," Dr Scott Montgomery, an epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an interview.

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.

In an observation study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Montgomery and his team 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 for a major British study. 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," Montgomery said.

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 we look at breast-feeding, the more benefits we see. As this is something that is, in evolutionary terms, normal it is likely to be important in normal human development," Montgomery said.

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