Breastfeeding can ward off ADHD

Jerusalem: Breastfeeding can help protect against Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioural condition in children and teens, a new study has found.

Dr Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, of Tel Aviv University`s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Head of the Child Neurodevelopmental Center in Loewenstein Hospital, and her fellow researchers set out to determine if the development of ADHD was associated with lower rates of breastfeeding.

They completed a retrospective study on the breastfeeding habits of parents of three groups of children: a group that had been diagnosed with ADHD; siblings of those diagnosed with ADHD; and a control group of children without ADHD and lacking any genetic ties to the disorder.

The researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration.

Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period.

In their study, the researchers compared breastfeeding histories of children from six to 12 years of age at Schneider`s Children Medical Center in Israel.

The ADHD group comprised children that had been diagnosed at the hospital, the second group included the siblings of the ADHD patients, and the control group included children without neurobehavioural issues who had been treated at the clinics for unrelated complaints.

Researchers found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups.

At three months, only 43 per cent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 per cent of the sibling group and 73 per cent of the control group.

At six months, 29 per cent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 per cent of the sibling group and 57 per cent of the control group.

While researchers do not yet know why breastfeeding has an impact on the future development of ADHD, they speculate it could be due to the breast milk itself.

It may also be due to the special bond formed between mother and baby during breastfeeding, for example they believe this research shows that breastfeeding can have a protective effect against the development of the disorder, and can be counted as an additional biological advantage for breastfeeding.

The study was published in journal Breastfeeding Medicine.