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Breast Is Best for Reducing Stress
Date:1/6/2008

Early breast-feeding may bolster kids' ability to handle anxiety

SUNDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding is considered a great way for a mother to form a close bond with her infant. And now there's evidence to suggest it may also help kids be more resilient to stress.

Researchers in Sweden and the United Kingdom examined data on almost 9,000 children born in Great Britain in 1970. Relevant information was collected at birth and again at ages 5 and 10 from parents, teachers, health-care workers and midwives.

Teachers were asked to rate the kids' anxiety levels on a zero-to-50 scale at age 10. And parents were asked about major life events -- including divorce or separation -- that occurred when their children were between 5 and 10 years old.

Not surprisingly, children whose parents had divorced or separated were more likely to have high anxiety. But what the researchers found striking was the difference in stress levels between breast-fed and bottle-fed kids. Breast-fed children were significantly less anxious than kids who hadn't nursed at their mother's breast.

Lead author Scott Montgomery, an associate professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said the research team was interested in examining whether there are any specific early-life exposures that make children better able to cope with stress later in life. The study attempted to replicate animal studies that showed close physical contact between a mother and her offspring may have a positive impact on the development of the offspring's stress response, he said.

"The best marker of maternal physical contact in the first month of life that we could find among the research information at our disposal was breast-feeding," Montgomery said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy women exclusively breast-feed their infants for at least the first six months of life and continue breast-feeding "
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