24 August 2006

3 things you didn't know about breastfeeding

Three recent studies offer even more reasons why mothers should be encouraged to ditch the bottle for the breast.

Three recent studies offer even more reasons why mothers should be encouraged to ditch the bottle for the breast.

Breastfed babies less stressed
A UK study which analysed data on almost 9 000 children at birth, and at ages five and 10, showed that children who were breastfed were less stressed at ages five and 10 than children who were bottle-fed.

Researchers collected information on the children from parents, teachers, health workers and midwives.

When the children were10 years old, their teachers were asked to rate the children's anxiety levels. Their parents were interviewed about major family disruption - such as divorce or separation - that occurred when the child was between five and 10 years old.

The study found that breastfed children whose parents had divorced or separated were almost twice as likely to be highly anxious, while bottle-fed children where more than nine times as likely to be highly anxious than other children.

The authors also suggested that breastfeeding may affect the quality of bonding between mother and child and the way they relate to one another. This may have an enduring effect on the child's anxiety levels in stressful situations.

Breast eases baby's pain
Breastfeeding can ease the pain experienced by newborns during routine heel-prick or needle-stick blood tests, Canadian researchers report.

The researchers analysed data from more than 1 000 newborns in 11 studies that compared the effectiveness of breastfeeding and breast milk to sugar water or a pacifier in easing the discomfort experienced while the blood samples were taken from infants.

The babies who were breastfed experienced less pain, compared to not giving anything, or just swaddling them or giving them a placebo of sterile water. Breastfeeding and sugar water were about equally effective in reducing pain. But researchers warn that it is unclear how high concentrations of sugar affect babies on the long-term. Breastfeeding is thus a safer and healthier option.

The review findings also suggest that breastfeeding may offer a natural method of pain relief for premature babies, who often have to undergo many painful procedures.

Breastfeeding for a dry bed?
Babies who are breastfed for longer than three months are less likely to become bed-wetters, a preliminary study suggests.

Researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey looked at five to 13-year-olds - 55 were or had been bed-wetters and 117 were not.

The researchers asked the parents about breastfeeding history, family history of bed-wetting and other data. Among the 55 bed-wetters, 45.5% had been breastfed. Among children who didn't wet the bed, 81.2% had been breastfed.

There have been several studies which have looked at general child development and breastfeeding. And those have shown that children who are breastfed have developmental advantages compared to children who are formula-fed. Those gains include better vision and cognitive skills. Bed-wetting is associated with developmental delay.

The researchers also found that children who didn't wet the bed had been breastfed for a longer period than bed-wetters, an average of three months longer.

However, the researcher cautioned that it is much too early to add that 'the prevention of bed-wetting' is another reason why mothers should breastfeed their babies. Because of this study, mothers should not feel guilty they did not breastfeed or breastfeed long enough.

More information on the studies:
Breastfed babies less stressed
Breast is best for babies' pain
Breastfeeding for a dry bed


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