Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Breastfed babies develop fewer behavioural problems?

Another day and another study has been conducted which suggests babies that are breastfed for four or more months are less likely to develop behavioural problems.

The 'Millenium Cohort Study' looked at the feeding habits of 10,037 mothers and their babies.  They were asked to assess the problems in their children by the time they reached the age of five including lying, stealing and clinginess.  Only 6% of breastfed children showed some of these traits, compared to 16% of formula fed babies.  

Mothers who breastfeed tend to be older ladies from a higher socio-economic background and are more highly educated. But even after adjusting their research to take this into account they still found a 30% increased risk of behavioral problems in breastfed babies.

I have been exclusively breastfeeding Mads who is now 19 weeks old and I have written before about the struggles I have had with nursing her.  It most certainly hasn't been easy but for a number of reasons I was determined to continue.  However I was lucky that I found a wonderful breastfeeding councillor and had great support from my Mum and Mr E.

However I can't help but wonder what affect these kind of studies have on those who would like to breastfed but can't for whatever reason, and how it makes them feel,

A friend of mine with a baby the same age as Mads got severe post natal depression and had to stop breastfeeding because of the anti-depressant medication she was on.  Out of a group of eight of us she is the only one to be formula feeding and she often says she feels like she has to justify to others why she gave up.  Another friend of mine whose baby is a little older says she feels guilty every time someone mentions breastfeeding and often wishes she tried harder to carry on.  Am I the only one who thinks that women should not be made to feel guilty for their choices?

What about women who don't have the support available like I did?  The first two weeks every time Mads latched on I cried in agony and the only reason I carried on to start with is because my Mum and Mr E helped me by hiring me a hospital grade breast pump and holding my hand while she latched on.  They even massaged my breasts for me when I got mastitis because I couldn't do it myself.  What about ladies who don't have this support?  Surely studies like this actively promoting 'breast is best' often make people feel terrible for the choices they have made.

While I do agree that we should be encouraging women to breastfeed as it is proven that it is a very healthy choice for babies, I do think that studies like this unfortunately make women who have been unable to or who have chosen not to, feel guilty or pressurised.

I was formula fed from birth and my sister was breastfed and there has always been a joke in my family that she is the 'naughty' one.  I had no behavioural problems growing up and have no allergies or health problems except slight hay fever.  I know that we are just one family, but I just think every time a new study comes out actively promoting the benefits of breastfeeding we should think of those women, like my friend, who decided not to breastfeed, or my other friend who physically couldn't, who will unnecessarily be feeling guilty about the new findings in research.

To read the full news story go to BBC News


Laura said...

Great post! I have one bottlefed baby and one fully breastfed baby and to be honest I don't notice any difference in them. I was breastfed when I was a baby and an absolute horror child when I was growing up. Whilst these results are interesting, I think every child is different and they should spend their time researching cures for cancer! I definitely agree there needs to be more support for women whether they breast or bottlefeed.

Mammy Dolittle said...

I only breastfed my kids for a few days. I really wanted to but couldn't. I had the same problem which was latching them on to boob. There was very little support in the hospital. They promoted breastfeeding but seemed so irritated when I rang the bell for help each time. I look back and wish I had perservered but at the time I felt sleep deprived and inadequate.

PR Mummy said...

Well said. another ridiculous study to fill mums with guilt about another issue. Don't we have enough to think about! I was lucky with breastfeeding too, but know many who didn't get on with it and their children are just as balanced (or not as the case may be) as my little monkey.

Let's see what crazy study comes out next.

Anonymous said...

To be honest I do think this study is ridiculous, I haven't read it in full yet but I just can't see how they can put the main cause of these problems down to being given formula milk. I exclusively breastfeed my daughter as we were really lucky and got on really well with it, but I think it is wrong how women are made to feel guilty for the choice they make. I don't even like telling people that I bf anymore as I don't like seeing mums that ff feeling uncomfortable and like they need to justify themselves to me (they don't). At the end of the day its the love and parenting that affects how the child is brought up and if a mum is unhappy due to breastfeeding problems then it is more beneficial to have her happy and using formula instead :)

mum2babyinsomniac said...

Plus someone I follow on Twitter lives in France and wrote a post on her blog about how breastfeeding there is just not really done at all and I don't think France is known as having a nation full of children with behavioural problems!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, we have a 4 week old little girl. My wife managed to breast feed for 3 weeks before I got so painful she was spending the whole day in tears. Now we are bottle feeding. The mid wifes and health visitor are very supportive of both approaches but you get that look from people when you say you have stopped already.
It's no crime and as long as baby is happy, healthy and sleeping who cares? Mums need to do what makes them happy, because happy mum means happy baby.

Mrs E said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Mutteringsofafool and PRMummy- I totally agree with you, a happy mum makes a happy baby and if you can't breastfeed then we shouldn't beat ourselves up about it, and we shouldn't listen to what other people think.

Mum2babyinsomiac- You are totally right about France! lol!