Breastfeeding boosts ability to climb social ladder

Updated: Jun 25, 2013, 19:05 PM IST

New York: Children who are breast-fed may be 24 per cent more likely to reach a higher social class than their parents, a new study has claimed.

The researchers looked at about 34,000 people in the UK, either born in 1958 or in 1970, and compared their social class at the age 33 or 34 with that of their fathers when they were children.

Among the study participants, those who had been breast-fed were more likely to have moved up the social hierarchy in adulthood, which the researchers defined as having a job of higher social status than their fathers.

While breast-feeding increased the chance of moving upward socially by 24 per cent, it also reduced the chance of sliding downward by 20 per cent, according to the study.

The results suggest that breast-feeding improved children`s neurological development, resulting in better cognitive abilities, which in turn helped them with their upward move in the society, the researchers said, `LiveScience` reported.

Breast-fed children in the study also had fewer signs of emotional stress, which could have contributed to their success later in the life, the study said.

"Perhaps the combination of physical contact and the most appropriate nutrients required for growth and brain development is implicated in the better neurocognitive and adult outcomes of breast-fed infants," the researchers wrote in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

In the study, researchers asked mothers of two large groups of people born 12 years apart whether they had breast-fed their children.

They then compared people`s social class as children - based on the social class of their father when they were 10 or 11 - with their social class as adults, measured when they were 33 or 34.

Social class was based on different categories of occupations, from unskilled and manual, to managerial and professional jobs.

The researchers measured children`s cognitive performance and stress response every few years. They found that cognitive abilities and stress scores accounted for about a third of the total impact of breast-feeding.