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Breastfed tots cope better with stress in later life

india Updated: Aug 03, 2006 20:04 IST

The findings of a new research has added strength to the argument that babies should be breastfed rather than bottle-fed, for it found that they cope better with stress later in life.

The findings of the study are based on almost 9000 children, who were part of the 1970 British Cohort Study, which regularly monitors a sample of the British population from birth onwards.

Relevant information, including how much the child weighed at birth and whether s/he was breastfed, was obtained at the time of the children's birth, as well later on at when they reached the ages of 5 and 10 years respectively.

The information was collected from midwives and health visitors, parents, and teachers.

The information also included factors that might influence or be linked with a child's reactions to stress and coping mechanisms, including maternal depression, parental education levels, their social class, and smoking habits.

As a part of the study, once the kids reached the age of 10, teachers were asked to rate the anxiety of their pupils on a scale of zero to 50, while parents were interviewed about major family disruption, including divorce or separation, which had occurred when their child was between 5 and 10 years of age.

The researchers found that children who had been breastfed were significantly less anxious than those kids who had been bottle fed.

They found that while breastfed children were almost twice as likely to be highly anxious, children who had been bottle fed were over 9 times as likely to be highly anxious about parental divorce/separation.

The findings held true, irrespective of other factors likely to influence the results.

The researchers cite animal research which suggests that the quality of physical contact between mother and baby during the first few days of life may influence the development of the offspring's neural and hormonal pathways that are involved in the stress response.

They suggest that breastfeeding may also affect the quality of the bonding between mother and child, and the way in which the two relate to each other, which in turn, may have a lasting impact on the child's anxiety levels in response to stressful life events.

The findings are published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.