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Childhood Anxiety Reduced with Breast-feeding

The calming effects of breast-feeding seem to last well into childhood long after children are weaned according to researchers.//

The study by researchers revealed that breast-fed children cope better with stressful situations like their parents' divorce than their bottle-fed peers.

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

Breast milk is rich in nutrients, enzymes, hormones, antibodies and growth factors that are passed from mother to child.

In addition research has shown that breast-feeding reduces respiratory illness, infections and diarrhea in the child as well as reduces the risk of after-birth bleeding in the mother.

The results of the observation study conducted by Montgomery and his team were published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The study dealt with how breast- and bottle-fed 10-year-olds coped with the stress of their parents' marital difficulties.

A major British study had monitored about 9,000 youngsters from their birth and the children in Montgomery’s study were among them. Teachers were asked to rate their anxiety level on a scale of 0-50. While there was a higher level of stress in all the children it was found that the breast-fed children coped better.

Montgomery said, "The anxiety was much less obvious in children who were breast-fed."

The researchers have not yet understood why breast-fed babies were less anxious. They have proposed that 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. Besides this, breast-feeding could also influence the development of pathways in the body linked with its response to stress.

Montgomery added, "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."


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