Ba­bies Breast-fed Un­til Six Months ‘Bet­ter Be­haved As Chil­dren’

Ex­perts now re­alise breast­feed­ing has ben­e­fits for IQ and cog­ni­tive skills

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Ba­bies who are breast-fed un­til the age of six months are bet­ter be­haved as chil­dren, re­searchers have found. Ex­perts mon­i­tored the be­hav­iour of 1500 chil­dren aged be­tween seven and 11. They found those who had only been breast­fed for the first month of their life, or less, were twice as likely to dis­play be­havioural prob­lems than those who were breast­fed un­til six months. The re­search, led by Glas­gow Univer­sity ex­perts and car­ried out among chil­dren in South Africa, sug­gests breast­feed­ing has ben­e­fits that ex­tend be­yond phys­i­cal health. Ex­perts have long ad­vised that ba­bies are fed with breast milk for at least six months, where pos­si­ble, with proven ben­e­fits in­clud­ing a stronger im­mune sys­tem, im­proved di­ges­tive sys­tem, and lower risk of cer­tain forms of cancer.

But ex­perts are be­gin­ning to re­alise that breast­feed­ing also has ben­e­fits for IQ, cog­ni­tive skills, and be­hav­iour. The NHS sug­gests women should feed their ba­bies ex­clu­sively with breast milk un­til they are at least six months old, and then con­tinue breast­feed­ing while grad­u­ally in­tro­duc­ing other food. Women are ad­vised by the NHS: “The longer you breast­feed, the longer the pro­tec­tion lasts and the greater the ben­e­fits.” Re­searcher Dr Tam­sen Rochat, of the Hu­man Sci­ence Re­search Coun­cil in South Africa, whose work is pub­lished in the jour­nal

PLOS Medicine, said: “The du­ra­tion of ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing of an in­fant has greater im­por­tance than pre­vi­ously re­alised in sev­eral ar­eas of de­vel­op­ment. “For ex­am­ple, child­hood on­set con­duct dis­or­ders can lead to ag­gres­sive or dis­rup­tive be­hav­iours, which in­ter­fere with learn­ing and peer re­la­tion­ships, in turn lead­ing to low self-es­teem and fur­ther be­havioural prob­lems.”

Dr Peter Singer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Grand Chal­lenges Canada which funded the study, said: “This study shows how who par­ents can help de­velop smart, so­cial kids who make good de­ci­sions: breast­feed ba­bies.”

Unicef warns that child obe­sity, di­a­betes and in­fec­tions could all be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced if more moth­ers could be per­suaded to breast­feed. Women them­selves would also ben­e­fit, with breast cancer rates re­duced among moth­ers who had breast­fed their chil­dren.

Photo: Daily Mail

Women should feed their ba­bies ex­clu­sively with breast milk un­til they are at least six months old, ex­perts say.

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