TUESDAY, May 10, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-fed children are less likely to have behavioral problems at age 5 than are those who were given formula, a new study reports.
The finding comes from an analysis of data on 10,037 mother-child pairs taking part in a study of white infants born in the United Kingdom in 2000 to 2001, including 9,525 carried full-term and 512 children who were born prematurely. Of the full-term children, 29 percent were breast-fed for at least four months, as were 21 percent of the pre-term children.
The parents completed a questionnaire designed to identify various types of behavioral problems, including conduct (stealing and lying), emotional (clinginess, anxiety) and hyperactivity.
About 6 percent of the children who were breast-fed and 16 percent of the formula-fed children had abnormal scores on the questionnaire, an indication of potential behavioral problems, according to the study.
The researchers suggested that the content of breast milk could be a reason for the differences. Breast milk contains large amounts of certain fatty acids, growth factors and hormones important in the development and function of an infant's brain and central nervous system, they explained.
Also, they noted, the interaction between mother and child that breast-feeding promotes could influence the child's behavior.
"Our findings suggest that longer duration of breast-feeding (at all or exclusively) is associated with having fewer parent-rated behavioral problems in term children," Maria Quigley, of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, and colleagues concluded.
The study was published online May 9 in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
WomensHealth.gov has more about the benefits of breast-feeding.