October 27, 2006

Breastfeeding Boosts Baby Mental Health

A new study has found that babies that are breastfed for longer than six months have significantly better mental health in childhood.

The findings are based on data 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.

Researcher Dr Wendy Oddy said there was growing evidence that bioactive factors in breast milk played an important role in the rapid early brain development that occurs in the first year of life.

"Even when we adjust the results to take into account other factors such as the parents' socio-economic 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," Dr Oddy said.

The study found that children who were breastfed for less than six months compared to six months or longer had a 52% increased risk of a mental health problem at age 2, a 55% increased risk at age 6, a 61% risk at age 8, and a 37% increased risk at age 10.

The analysis is based on a scientifically recognised checklist of child behaviour that assessed the study childrens' behaviour at 2, 6, 8 and 10 years of age.

Dr Oddy said that children that were breastfed had particularly lower rates of delinquent, aggressive and anti-social behaviour, and overall were less depressed, anxious or withdrawn.

"These results are powerful evidence for more support to be given to mothers to help them breastfeed for longer," she said.

Statistics from the Australian Breastfeeding Association show only 32 per cent of mothers continue breastfeeding exclusively up to six months.

This falls short of the National Health and Medical Research Council's recommended target of 80 per cent but is only slightly less than the world average of 34 per cent.

Breastfeeding (or lack thereof) is just one of many factors that have been linked to increased risk of brain disorders and mental illness. For more information see: Breast Feeding Your Baby may Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia

Independently - other researchers have suggested that the positive impact of longer breast feeding of babies may have more to do with the love, attention and care that babies get when held and breastfed, than due to the actual milk received (just as research has shown that the more that baby rats are licked by their mother, the lower levels of anxiety and fear the rats have when they are fully grown). For more information, see this story on epigenetics.

Source: Research Australia (source press release here)

Books on Childcare for Maximizing Mental Health

More information on the factors linked to schizophrenia risk


I breastfed my daughter for 18 months, so why did she develop a mental illness?


Posted by: yaya99 at October 29, 2006 11:15 AM

Yaya, I also found this disconcerting since I know that breastfeeding does help with brain development but it does not prevent serious brain disease. Schizophrenia has been around a long long time, and is porevalent around the world. Babies have been breast-fed since the dawn of mankind, and they are still breastfed world-wide, yet our kids still get schizophrenia.

My daughter was breastfed, and both her grandmothers of course were breastfed - yet all developed psychotic disorders.

Maybe breastfeeding does help IQ a little bit, and does offer some slight protection against lack of resilience or getting situational depression. But when we talk about the real searious biological stuff... well... obviously, it can't prevent it.

And I hope no mother who did not breastfeed feels one iota of guilt that maybe if only her kid had been breast-fed that her kid would not have developed schizophrenia. We are here to attest to the fact that it would NOT have prevented it.


Posted by: Naomi_njw at October 30, 2006 09:44 AM

> Breast milk only for first four months helps protect against asthma

Since allergies run in my family, I was careful to breast-feed exclusively... my daughter developed allergies and asthma anyway. I try to console myself by thinking that maybe they would have been worse. In the end though - we do all these things to try to help our kids, but biology happens anyway.


Posted by: Naomi at November 1, 2006 06:35 AM

Im 21 and have pariod schiz. I wasn't breast feed and have family members with mental problems on my moms side agree 100% with this finding.

Posted by: Josh at November 4, 2006 06:30 PM

I was breastfed for over one year, and even at a young age, before my family had fallen apart, I had become very mentally unstable... ( don't let my writing fool you... though, if you were smart, it wouldn't, you can be both smart and mentally unstable at the same time...)

Posted by: Natalie at November 22, 2006 08:24 AM

When companies like still aggressively promote their baby milk products...

Eye witness evidence of Nestlé malpractice on eve of demonstration

Nestlé is the target of an international boycott because of its aggressive marketing of baby foods. A newspaper article and new film reveal how Nestlé continues to undermine breastfeeding, breaking international marketing standards, where laws have yet to be introduced and enforced.

People are always wanting to know whether Nestlé and other baby food companies are still misbehaving in the way they push their products. What is going on right now? The article in The Guardian on Tuesday was the journalist's eye witness account from Bangladesh. See:

Now you can see for yourself what is happening in the Philippines. This is a new film from UNICEF Philippines. We are contacting UNICEF to see if we can make this available on DVD. You can register your interest in having a copy - see below. In the meantime you can watch the clips UNICEF has posted today on Youtube. They are gathered together at:

This fresh confirmation of malpractice, further substantiates the documentary evidence gathered by Baby Milk Action and partners in the International Baby Food Action Network. Globally, IBFAN monitoring finds Nestlé to be the worst of the baby food companies, which is why it is targeted with boycott action. There will be a demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ on Saturday 19 May 11:00-12:00 and at other sites, shopping centres and Body Shop outlets around the country. See:

We have just a few weeks left in our campaign of support for the Philippines to save the marketing regulations that could stop the type of practices you see in the film. At present the industry is winning and the regulations have been suspended by the Supreme Court. We need your help to make the regulations law.

The clips show how baby food companies undermine breastfeeding, contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

You can see the conditions under which mothers are using formula. You can see some of the company promotions. You can hear health workers explaining the pressure they are under to recommend company products. You can listen to recordings given by hidden company representatives, who explain the strategies they are taught to use.

The film also explains how the government has introduced regulations to try to stop the aggressive marketing which undermines breastfeeding. Some mothers are convinced that their babies will be more intelligent if they use formula. If mothers have problems with breastfeeding, the promotion means they are more likely to think switching to formula will give their child the same or better benefits as breastfeeding and so will be less likely to seek support for breastfeeding.

The marketing regulations have been challenged by the Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines (which does not include Nestlé, which has opposed the measure in other ways). They want to carry on with business as usual.

After the US Chamber of Commerce put pressure on the President of the Philippines, the Supreme Court blocked the regulations. Next month the Supreme Court will rule on whether the regulations will stand or be struck down.

We have been campaigning in support of the Philippines and many of you will already have signed our petition of solidarity. If you have not, please do so now. The campaign to date has generated newspaper headlines in the Philippines and other countries. See:

If you would like a DVD of the film if we can make it available, you can register your interest via our on-line Virtual Shop and we will contact you on a first-come, first-served basis with the price once we have set this up. See

Posted by: Aran at May 23, 2007 06:08 AM

Out of all my children, my Joseph was breast fed the longest...about 8 months and he did get schizophrenia, BUT I believe immunizations,etc., contributed to his brain or thought disorder, among many other things along the way. I remember when he got his first DPT shot, he screamed a high pitch scream all day and I went to the doc and they said, OH umm just dont give him the pertussis part of the shot anymore...but did it do damage? I sure as heck think so...so unfortunately breastfeeding alone wouldnt have prevented the effects of the shot. I think we need to deTOX not only the mental health system but the whole world...it is so toxic and there are so many more diagnosed with mental illness these days. it's time to talk prevention and I do believe breastfeeding will give a child the best start in life, but so much more to do along with it. :)

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