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Breastfeeding improves mental health of infants

Monday, October 30, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: breastfeeding, infant health, child nutrition

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(NewsTarget) New Australian research has found that infants who are breastfed for longer than six months experience significantly better mental health during childhood, compared to infants breastfed for fewer than six months.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia tracked and examined the growth and development of more than 2,500 West Australian children over the last 16 years, and found that those who were breastfed for fewer than six months had a 52 percent increased risk of displaying mental health behaviors at age 2.

The risk of mental health problems -- including aggressive, delinquent and antisocial behaviors -- increased to 55 percent by the age of 6 for children breastfed for fewer than 6 months. By 8 years old, the risk had increased further to 61 percent, while at age 10, the children breastfed for fewer than six months experienced a 37 percent increased risk.

The researchers, led by Dr. Wendy Oddy of the University of Western Australia, found that overall, children who were breastfed for six months or longer experienced less depression, anxiety and were less withdrawn.

Oddy said recent research has shown that bioactive components of breast milk play an important part in the rapid early development of children's brains during their first year of life.

"Even when we adjust the results to take into account other factors such as the parents' socioeconomic situation, their education, their happiness and family functioning, we see that children that were breastfed for at least six months are at lower risk of mental health problems," Oddy said.

Consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "The Seven Laws of Nutrition," says infant formulas are far inferior to the natural nutrition found in breast milk.

"Mothers who rely on infant formula are creating a serious disadvantage for the health of their newborns," Adams said. "Appetite regulation, immune system function and mental health all depend on the nourishment of breast milk."

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