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Breastfeeding is associated with improved child cognitive development

Data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study was examined to assess the association between breastfeeding and child cognitive development in term and preterm children. Children were grouped according to breastfeeding duration. Results were stratified by gestational age at birth: 37 to 42 weeks (term, n=11,101), and 28 to 36 weeks (preterm, n=778). British Ability Scales tests were administered at age 5 years (naming vocabulary, pattern construction, and picture similarities subscales).

After adjusting for confounders, the mean scores for all subscales increased with breastfeeding duration. The authors conclude that in white, singleton children in the United Kingdom, breastfeeding is associated with improved cognitive development, particularly in children born preterm.

MA Quigley, C Hockley, C Carson, Y Kelly, MJ Renfrew, and A Sacker. Breastfeeding is Associated with Improved Child Cognitive Development: A Population-Based Cohort Study. J Pediatr 10 Aug 2011.

More research on breastfeeding and mental development

Wendy H Oddy, Jianghong Li, Andrew J O Whitehouse, Stephen R Zubrick, and Eva Malacova (2010) Breastfeeding Duration and Academic Achievement at 10 Years. Pediatrics, Dec 2010; doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3489

Kramer MS, Aboud F, Mironova E. (2008) Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: New evidence from a large randomized trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2008: 65; 578-584.


Early nutrition appears to be positively linked to bone health in adolescence

The impact of early nutrition and growth on later bone health has previously been examined in only a few studies. In a study in Denmark - the Copenhagen Cohort Study - the association of early nutrition and early growth with later bone mass in adolescence was investigated.

Participants were followed prospectively from birth until age 17 years. They were examined at birth; at ages 2, 6, and 9 months (n = 143); and at age 17 years (n = 109) with a variety of measures including anthropometric, serum screening and whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanning (age 17 years only).

The researchers found that the duration of exclusive breastfeeding was positively correlated with a variety of outcomes including sex-adjusted lumbar spine (LS) bone mineral content, LS bone area and LS bone mineral density. The authors conclude the duration of exclusive breastfeeding seems to be positively related to LS bone mass at age 17 years.

Molgaard C, Larnkjaer A, Budek A et al (2011). Are early growth and nutrition related to bone health in adolescence? The Copenhagen Cohort Study of infant nutrition and growth. Am J Clin Nutr. published 17 August 2011, 10.3945/ajcn.110.001214

More research on bone density

Caroline J. Chantry et al (2004). Lactation Among Adolescent Mothers and Subsequent Bone Mineral Density. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 158:650-656

Kalkwarf HJ (1999) Hormonal and dietary regulation of changes in bone density during lactation and after weaning in women. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia 4: 319-29


Breastfeeding protects against type 1 diabetes mellitus

This case control study compared the frequency and duration of breastfeeding between siblings where one sibling had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus and other siblings had not. The results showed that while there was no difference in breastfeeding rates among the two groups, the children with diabetes had a shorter duration of breastfeeding (3.3 vs. 4.6 months, p<0.001) and the diabetic group was exposed earlier to cow's milk. After controlling for other associated variables it was shown that a longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with a protective effect against diabetes. The authors concluded that a shorter breastfeeding interval may contribute to type 1 diabetes mellitus.

JG Alves, JN Figueiroa, J Meneses, and GV Alves. Breastfeeding Protects Against Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: A Case-Sibling Study. Breastfeed Med 5 Aug 2011.

More research on diabetes

Liu B, Jorm L, Banks E (2010) Parity, Breastfeeding and the Subsequent Risk of maternal Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care.

Chertok IRA, Raz I, Shoham I et al Effects of early breastfeeding on neonatal glucose levels of term infants born to women with gestational diabetes. J Hum Nutr Diet 13 Feb 2009


Maternal depression associated with compromised weight gain in breastfed newborns

Maternal depression has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes in children. This study of 50 breastfeeding mothers of 12-day-old infants, who reported a depressed mood and anxiety, found that maternal depression is associated with less weight gain, poorer attachment to the breast and less sensitive positioning at the breast by the mother. The authors conclude that where there are signs of a depressed mood in the mother, greater support with breastfeeding should be given.

Sybil L. Hart, Shera C. Jackson, and L. Mallory Boylan. Compromised Weight Gain, Milk Intake, and Feeding Behavior in Breastfed Newborns of Depressive Mothers. J. Pediatr. Psychol. 2011; 36(8): p. 942-950.

More research on mental health

Groër MW (2005). Differences Between Exclusive Breastfeeders, Formula-Feeders, and Controls: A Study of Stress, Mood, and Endocrine Variables. Biological Research For Nursing 7: 106-117

GBogen DL, Hanusa BH, Moses-Kolko E et al (2010) Are maternal depression or symptom severity associated with breastfeeding intention or outcomes? J Clin Psychiatry, June 2010, 1555-2101


Maternal use of SSRIs, SNRIs and NaSSAs: practical recommendations during pregnancy and lactation

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are increasingly used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This article reviews the available clinical data and provides a multidisciplinary guideline for the monitoring and management of neonates exposed to SSRIs during pregnancy and lactation.

S D Sie, J M B Wennink, J J van Driel, A G W te Winkel, K Boer, G Casteelen, and M M van Weissenbruch. Maternal use of SSRIs, SNRIs and NaSSAs: practical recommendations during pregnancy and lactation. Arch. Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed. published 27 July 2011, 10.1136/adc.2011.214239



Step Into The Night: 21 September 2011

Help a child with every step - Barclays, UNICEF and Heart Radio’s charity, Have a Heart, are inviting you to register to take part in a sponsored night walk through the city of London. Funds raised will go towards transforming the lives of children in the UK and around the world.

Find out more and sign up


Baby Friendly Annual Conference, 24-25 November 2011


The 2011 Baby Friendly Initiative Annual Conference takes place at the Liverpool BT Convention Centre. Speakers include Anne Milton, Professor Paula Meier and Professor Mary Renfrew.

Click here to view the timetable and book your place.






UNICEF UK | Registered Office: UNICEF House, 30a Great Sutton Street, London, EC1V 0DU
Registered Charity No 1072612.


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