Richard G. Petty, MD

Breast is Best, But…

I think that everyone knows that breastfeeding confers considerable advantages on a baby. So much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Though some mothers cannot manage this for a whole range of reasons, and it’s always a real shame when women are made to feel guilty if they cannot breastfeed.

Amongst some of the likely health benefits for both mother a baby:

  1. Mother and child are more likely to bond
  2. A reduced risk of the child developing some respiratory problems, ear infections and gastrointestinal problems
  3. A reduced risk of developing allergies later in life
  4. A reduced risk of obesity in adulthood
  5. A reduced rate of attention deficit disorder
  6. A reduced risk of developing type I diabetes
  7. There may also be a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis in later life
  8. The mother has a reduced level of stress and postpartum bleeding
  9. Mothers who breastfeed have a slightly reduced risk of some types of cancer

To this list we can add that breastfed children are more intelligent. That is not a new discovery. It was first reported in the 1920s. A new study published in the British Medical Journal has re-examined the question. Most of the earlier studies failed to consider the mother’s intelligence, despite the well-recognized association between maternal education and breastfeeding. That association often breaks down in professional women who have to go straight back to work after giving birth, but it remains a key variable.

The researchers examined data from 3,161 mothers and 5,475 children, who were followed in a twenty-five year prospective study. Premature babies were excluded and the children’s’ intelligence was measured up to age five.

The breastfed babies had slightly higher IQs, but the effect was entirely accounted for by their mothers’ intelligence. Breastfeeding itself had little or no effect on intelligence scores. The mothers of the breast-fed children tended to be older and to be more likely to provide the growing child with a stimulating and supportive home environment.

In a separate study from the Australian Raine Study at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, that has tracked the growth and development of more than 2500 West Australian children over the past 16 years, it now emerges that children who were breastfed for longer than six months have significantly better mental health in childhood.

Children that were breastfed had particularly lower rates of delinquent, aggressive and anti-social behavior, and overall were less depressed, anxious or withdrawn. This makes sense: apart from the psychological impact of having a mother who is willing and able to breastfeed, breast milk is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids – examples include docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid – that are important for brain development and the growth of nerve cells.

There is also evidence that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, although it is difficult to be sure if it because of the breast milk itself or the kinds of mothers who breastfeed.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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