Breastfeeding May Protect Against ADHD
July 23, 2013

Breastfeeding May Protect Against ADHD

Rebekah Eliason for - Your Universe Online

Breastfeeding is widely accepted as having a positive impact on development and providing infants protection against disease. Surprisingly, a new study released from Tel Aviv University has linked breastfeeding with a lower risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder in children and teens.

Dr. Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, along with a team of researchers, sought to discover if the development of ADHD was linked to lower levels of breastfeeding. A retrospective study concerning breastfeeding habits was performed on three sets of children. One group was diagnosed with ADHD. Another group was siblings of the first set of children diagnosed with ADHD and the third group was a control of children who had not been diagnosed with ADHD or had any genetic association with the disorder.

In this study, breastfeeding histories for children from age six to twelve were compared with each other. The children studied had either been diagnosed at Schneider's Children Medical Center in Israel, were their siblings or were children treated at the clinic who had no neurobehavioral issues.

Even when taking additional risk factors into consideration, a strong link was found between children's rate of breastfeeding and the chance of developing ADHD. When compared with children who were breastfed at three months of age, those who were bottle-fed at the same age were three times as likely to develop ADHD.

In order to take into account other risk factors, parents filled out a detailed questionnaire regarding marital status, education of parents, pregnancy issues such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child and genetic links to ADHD.

Considering all risk factors, children who were diagnosed with ADHD were much less likely to have been breastfed in the first year of their life when compared to the children in other groups. By three months, 43 percent of children in the ADHD category were breastfed, 69 percent of the sibling group was breastfed and 73 percent of the control group had been breastfed. The levels changed at six months to 29 percent for those with ADHD, 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the control group having been breastfed.

A unique and helpful aspect of this study was the inclusion of the sibling group. Most mothers make the same breastfeeding choices for the children, but this can vary. Including the siblings in the study helped distinguish between genetic and environmental factors

Researchers do not yet understand why breastfeeding has an impact on ADHD, but they do believe it can help prevent its onset. This new discovery adds to the known further biological advantages of breastfeeding.

Dr. Mimouni-Block intends to continue her research with children who are at high risk for developing ADHD.

This study was published in Breastfeeding Medicine.