Could breastfeeding reduce hyperactivity in children? Maybe, says new study

Nursing moms can talk to a lactation consultant through Doctors on Demand and UpSpring.

A new study that of 8,000 children that were part of the Growing up in Ireland data collection survey looked at behavior and cognitive abilities of children who were breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life compared to children who were not. It specifically looked at the children at age 3 and at age 5. Would breastfed babies be the  “smarter,” “better behaved” children as other studies have seemed to indicate?

What it found was not what it expected.

The only factor that was scientifically different was that the breastfed children at age 3 had less hyperactivity than those who weren’t breastfed. By the time all the children were 5, there wasn’t a statistical difference.

Also unclear was whether it was the breast milk itself or the close skin-to-skin contact that breastfeeding affords.

The study is out this month in the April issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric’s journal.

It’s a study that makes many scratch their heads. Isn’t breast milk best?

I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise Dr. Amy Tuteur, who wrote the book “Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting.” When we talked to her last year, she gave us this:

She wants women to stop beating themselves up about not breast-feeding. In “Push Back,” she offers  chart after chart of research that shows little difference between breast-fed and formula-fed babies with access to clean water. “The benefits are a few less colds over the first year,” she says. “That’s it.” All the other stuff — obesity rates, diabetes, IQ — “That’s not true,” she says. “That’s been debunked.”

She worries about women feeling like bad mothers when their milk doesn’t come in or babies have trouble latching. She’d rather they switch to formula and feed their babies rather than stick to breast-feeding with a hungry baby as a result.

I have to say, I nursed both kids exclusively until they turned 1 and am a big fan of breastfeeding. Both have IQs, but so does my husband who was a bottle baby and so do I who was breastfed. One kid has ADHD and one doesn’t.

What I do know is that they were hardly ever sick as babies, and I have to think nursing probably helped.

Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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