Breastfed babies are better behaved says study

(303 Posts)
crikeybadger Tue 10-May-11 07:37:50

Link here if you are interested.

Oakmaiden Tue 10-May-11 07:40:40

I heard this on the radio too, and thought to myself - that'll make a nice row on Mumsnet grin

As far as I can gather, though, their definition of behaviour is quite narrow. I*t is not talking about major behavioural difficulties as much as clingyness and restlessness. Interesting though.

froggers1 Tue 10-May-11 07:42:02

God my DS was breastfed and is very naughty.....

VeronicaCake Tue 10-May-11 07:52:03

They do acknowledge they don't know what accounts for the effects and it could simply be that breastfed babies spend more time being held close to their mothers. Which is quite useful info because it means parents who hold their babies close and interact with them whilst bottle feeding (and most of the bottle feeders I know did this) can achieve the same effects.

DD was always held close because she screamed every time I put her down for the first 6m. I have just told her that I expect impeccable behaviour from her as a result. She smiled and threw some scrambled eggs on the floor.

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Tue 10-May-11 07:54:30

Heard this too. Was a bit confused on the very first interview on it (i've been up a long time) the woman said they didn't know the cause (closeness of bf or something in bm), but suppliments in formula are getting better... Eh? Think she might be refering to fatty acids in brain development but seemed all a bit confused...

Did read something recently (think it was in "bfing older children" by anne sinnot? Sp) about bf supporting oxytocin receptors (apparently some of them atrophy from lack of use in ff) which aid emotional self regulation (in the case it was talking about toddlers and tantrums). But they weren't clear wether it was bf (ie oxy released by the baby in response to the feed) or bm (oxy in bm...lack of evidence either way that it can affect the baby).

More research needed...

Meglet England Tue 10-May-11 08:09:29

DS was almost un-breast-feedable, god knows I tried for 3 months. He was a very challenging baby (to the point that friends mentioned it and were glad they didn't have a baby like it) and is still a very challenging toddler.

DD was easy to bf (only 5mo though). She is also a little terror.

ElsieR Tue 10-May-11 08:11:24

Trouble is with this study is that they also said it could come from the mother's social background. So it does not really mean much IMO.

colditz Tue 10-May-11 08:14:37

hmmmm..... it does sound like every single advert out there that is aimed at middle class mothers - it preys on the idea that your child will be thick and naughty. It's probably true but people are becoming inured to this idea.

cocoachannel Tue 10-May-11 08:16:01

To conduct a study and not adjust for environmental factors is just bad science. You would have thought researchers at any university, let alone a world renowned institution like Oxford, would have adjusted for social background. Rubbish.

Spudulika Tue 10-May-11 08:16:26

There was a big study on infant feeding and mental health in childhood, done in Australia a few years ago by the Telethon Institute in Australia that was enthusiastically ignored by the press here.

I'm fascinated by these findings. I wonder (if the study has been properly done and the findings are valid) what the mechanism is.

On a personal note, I bf all mine for over a year, but ds2 for over 2 years. He never had formula. He's got ASD and his behaviour can be very difficult. I'd love to think that my breastfeeding him has helped him. He's definitely very loving, expressive and tactile, which isn't always the case in a child with Aspergers.

pooka Tue 10-May-11 08:17:09

According to the guardian today, they did make adjustments for sociology economic influences.

pooka Tue 10-May-11 08:19:20

Socio economic. Bloody autocorrect.

lilham Tue 10-May-11 08:22:43

It's an interesting study scientifically because the result raises questions to be looked at. What we shouldn't do is seeing the journal article and conclude bf directly improves children behavior.

Spudulika Tue 10-May-11 08:22:58

"they also said it could come from the mother's social background"

They would have controlled for social class. But it must be very difficult to control for those aspects of maternal attitude that are linked to higher rates of breastfeeding. We know that even within social class groups, the more intelligent women are more likely to breastfeed (ie - if you take two graduates from social class 1, the one with the higher IQ is more likely to breastfeed). Those mothers who wish to breastfeed are perhaps not only more intelligent but... more responsive or something? [flinches and looks nervously over shoulder]

BrokenBananaTantrum Tue 10-May-11 08:27:57

I don't normally enter into any discussions about bf / ff but this latest thing has really upset me. I didn't breast feed my DD at all. I now feel like this is the worst thing I could ever have decided to do. I was really upset this morning about this new research. It just makes me feel like a really crap mum. It's not a decision I can do anything about now as DD is nearly 5yo. I guess I will just have to live with the knowledge that DD will never be as good as a child who has been breast fed in terms of brain development, social development etc etc. sad

However she will always be perfect to me.

Mine both bf and both naughty as sin! And ds1, who was latched on all the time, was really really clingy!

GnomeDePlume Tue 10-May-11 08:29:22

Or quieter, calmer babies are breastfed.. Which is cause and which is effect?

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Tue 10-May-11 08:30:11

the woman who conducted the study (second interview on today prog this morning) said they did adjust for a great many social factors but that they can never be sure that there isn't an unknown social factor that they don't understand and therefore have overlooked. She said this warranted more studies inc comparisons between formulas.

Meglet England Tue 10-May-11 08:36:15

Exactly gnome, that was my experience wth ds. A fractious baby is hard to latch on.

FWIW I was ex bf and I was a dreadful clingy, hyperactive toddler, child and teenager. My little sister was ex bf and is as mellow and friendly as they come.

ElsieR Tue 10-May-11 08:39:14

Fair enough I misunderstood then. But hey I was ffed so there you go! wink
If the media wanted to make mothers who ff feel awful, they should keep going they are doing a great job. (hugs brokenbanana)

ComeWhineWithMe Tue 10-May-11 08:42:43

I ff 5 dc then BF no6. First 5 are well behaved,excellent sleepers and eat anything I put in front of them.

BF baby does not sleep, throws a lot of tantrums and is a very fussy eater with poor weight gain, oh and I haven't been out for two years because she is so clingy.

Every child is different though I don't think these studies help at all, I could look at it another way and say first 5 dc all got sticky eyes and colds in the first few months of life and BF child is rarely ill. I also have a different kind of bond with bf baby, not sure why I just do.

Everyone has different experiences and I think it's a bit pointless to say "This is how BF baby are" because it's simply not true each child whether BF or FF is different and I don't need to conduct a survey to come to that conclusion.

cocoachannel Tue 10-May-11 08:45:58

BBT This is why the media's interpretation of these studies is so dangerous. You are NOT a "crap mum". (Well, obviously I don't know you in RL, but from your post you clearly adore your little girl!).

My sister was ff, due to being in hospital as a baby and is now a beautiful 28 year old, with a great career etc. She was Head Girl at school so very well behaved and had lots of friends. When studies like this come out the rest of the family joke that had she been breastfed she would be able to shit gold.

I was also ff and turned out okay too. DH was bf and was a horror as a child and teenager according to my MIL.

tiktok Tue 10-May-11 08:46:10

The paper controlled for maternal effects - and it comes from the massive Millennium Cohort study so it is large (9000 mother-baby pairs) and perfectly respectable.

What is very hard to assess is 'reverse causation' - like Gnome says, what if the 'quieter, calmer' babies are the ones who are easier to breastfeed? So it's not breastfeeding that's 'caused' the lack of behaviour difficulties, but the lack of behaviour difficulties that has 'caused' the breastfeeding!

So they come out of the uterus already 'easier' to breastfeed - and we know that there is a difference in stress levels in babies linked to stress in pregnancy, so this is not a mad idea.

You'd have to show that 'stressed' babies are less likely to be breastfed in order to take this idea further, and I don't know of any work that shows this. In fact the opposite could be the case - that breastfeeding becomes an easier way to calm a stressed baby.

No one needs to feel bad as an individual about this, though, because none of it can be taken as an indication of what your baby/child would have been like. The research of this type is less an 'instruction' to mothers, and more of an encouragement, and it is also a spur to public health measures to make it easier for mothers to breastfeed for longer.

The stats can be translated like this: take 2 school classes of 30 5 year olds. One (A) has kids in it who were all bf for four months or more. The other (B) has kids who were not bf for four months or more. In A, there will be 1 or 2 kids with behaviour problems (as defined in this paper). In B, there will be 4 or 5. In both classes, the maj. of the kids are fine.

So indivdual terms the diff. is not huge, but in public health terms, this is quite significant and certainly supports existing and other strategies to enable more breastfeeding.

Spudulika Tue 10-May-11 08:49:29

"Or quieter, calmer babies are breastfed.. Which is cause and which is effect?"

I'd love to know if they considered this factor in the study.

I know several mums who had babies who were very difficult to feed. Some of these babies have gone on to grow into children with speech and language difficulties or ASD.

BrokenBanana - stop now! The decisions we make for our babies and the way we parent them grow out of the culture in which we're doing our mothering. I went back to work when my first was only 5 weeks old. In retrospect I wish I hadn't, but we were mortgaged up to the eyeballs and needed the money. You choose to bottlefeed - a perfectly reasonable decision and a perfectly normal one. If you'd lived in a culture where EVERYONE breastfed and where THAT was normal you'd probably have made a different decision. We don't parent in a social vacuum!

NoWayNoHow Tue 10-May-11 08:50:24

Seems like such a strange and woolly study. I understand that they are defining "bad behaviour" more as clinginess, restlessness, etc, but I just find these kind of studies so impossibly flawed when it comes to making a generalisation on the child when individual circumstances like personality, home life, social and economic impact on upbringing, and parental attitudes have such a massive impact.

These kind of studies are, IMHO ("H" here standing for humble wink ) barely worth publishing.

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