A new Israeli study has found that breast-feeding during the first few months of a child's life lowers a child's risk level for developing attention, concentration and behavioral disorders.
Doctors Aviva Mimouni Bloch, Anna Kechvenskaya and Francis Mimouni revealed the results of their study, titled "Breast-feeding for three months or more has a protective effect against developing ADHD at a later stage of childhood," at a recent conference organized by the Israeli Association for Child Development and Rehabilitation,
The research focused on 150 children between the ages of 6 and 12 who had been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) at Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel. Two control groups were used for comparison: one composed of non-diagnosed siblings of the children; and the second composed of children who had been treated at the ear, nose and throat clinic of the hospital and did not have attention or concentration issues. The children's mothers were also tested for ADHD, to negate the possible genetic element. Other issues that were screened out had to do with demographics, other medical issues, nutrition and other characteristics of the mother's pregnancy.
The study found that 43 percent of the children in the ADHD group had nursed for four months, compared with 68% in the group of siblings and 73% in the non-ADHD control group. The clearest difference between the groups was found among those who breast-fed for longer than three months.
Studies in the past have hinted at a possible connection between the development of ADHD and breast-feeding, but this is the first study in which siblings and parents with ADHD and the genetic aspect were negated at the outset.
Additional differences between the groups were the mother's age at the time of birth; each additional year increased the risk of developing ADHD by 10%. Also, parents' divorces had a statistical connection.
"This study can't determine whether limited exposure to breast-feeding in children with ADHD caused the attention and concentration disorder or that mothers who breast-fed for a shorter period of time did so because of the child's behavioral disturbances," the researchers said. "However, we suggest that the prevention of ADHD, even partial, can be added to the list of the benefits of breast-feeding."
A German study released in September, published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed similar findings, that children who breast-fed were 20% less likely to have attention, concentration and behavioral disorders. That study also looked at the connection between gestational diabetes and low socio-economic situations and ADHD.