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Breast-Feeding Linked to Resilience Against Psychosocial Stress in Children

Children who are breast fed cope better with stress such as the divorce of their parents.  This according to a study published in the August 2006 issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood. This study goes beyond the physical benefits of breast feeding and shows that breast feeding also helps a child deal with stress later in their childhood.

The study was conducted by looking at information collected at birth and at ages 5 and 10 years for 8958 subjects born in one week in 1970 and living in Great Britain.  The researchers asked the teachers of these children questions and used a scientific method to measure the children's responses to stress based on their teachers' observations.

Of the total number of 8958 children, 5672 were not breast fed.  The researchers then looked at the total population of these children and noted those whose parents had gotten separated or divorced. They then calculated the stress response in those who were initially breast fed against those who were not breast fed.

The results showed that those children who had been breast fed, and who had gone through the stress of having their parents break-up showed more resilience in that situation. Researchers were able to determine that breast fed children showed a 7% reduction in anxiety over those that were not breast fed.

The research was also reported on November 28, 2006 in Medscape Medical News. In that report study author, S. M. Montgomery, MD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, stated, "The benefits of breast feeding are well recognized, and this study indicates that it may be associated with lower levels of anxiety among children who have had the potentially stressful experience of parental divorce," the authors further concluded. "Research into the mediating factors underlying the resilience indicated by breast feeding should focus on exposures and associations related to early rather than prolonged breast feeding."