TUESDAY, Oct. 31, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The longer a new mom breast-feeds, the stronger her maternal bond may be with her child years later, a new study suggests.
The 10-year study of nearly 1,300 families in the United States found that women who breast-fed their children longer had more maternal sensitivity well past their children's infant and toddler years.
New moms in the study breast-fed for an average of 17 weeks. Fewer than 1 percent breast-fed for 2 years and 29 percent didn't breast-feed at all, the study found. Researchers then interviewed and videotaped families in their homes periodically until their child turned 11.
Maternal sensitivity includes a mother's responsiveness to her child, her emotional tone, her flexibility in her behavior and her ability to read her child's cues.
"It was surprising to us that breast-feeding duration predicted change over time in maternal sensitivity," said study author Jennifer Weaver, from Boise State University in Idaho.
"We had prior research suggesting a link between breast-feeding and early maternal sensitivity, but nothing to indicate that we would continue to see effects of breast-feeding significantly beyond the period when breast-feeding had ended," she added.
Weaver's comments were contained in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
Although breast-feeding for longer was associated with greater maternal sensitivity over time, the actual effect was small, the researchers noted.
That means that breast-feeding may be only one of many ways the bond is strengthened between mother and child, Weaver said.
The findings were published Oct. 30 in the journal Developmental Psychology.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on breast-feeding.