Breast-Feeding May Protect Against Bed-Wetting

Children breast-fed longer than three months less likely to wet, study suggests

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By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Babies who are breast-fed for longer than three months are less likely to become bed-wetters, a new study suggests.

"Although this data is preliminary data, my advice [to mothers] would be to breast-feed their babies longer than three months for the developmental advantages this provides, and one of those may be protection against bed-wetting," said study author Dr. Joseph G. Barone, a pediatrics expert at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

But another bed-wetting expert, Dr. Howard Bennett, a Washington, D.C., pediatrician, cautioned that the study findings, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, are preliminary.

"I think it's a thought-provoking study, and it sets the stage for a further look. It is interesting to us as doctors but not quite ready for prime time," said Bennett, who wrote Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Barone, who acknowledged that the research is preliminary, explained how his team decided to study the possible link: "There have been a lot of studies done looking at general child development and breast-feeding. And those have shown that children who are breast-fed have developmental advantages compared to children who are formula-fed," he said. Those gains include better vision and cognitive skills, Barone said, adding, "Bed-wetting is associated with developmental delay."

Barone's team looked at 5- to 13-year-olds -- 55 were or had been bed-wetters and 117 were not. The researchers asked the parents about breast-feeding history, family history of bed-wetting and other data. Among the 55 bed-wetters, 45.5 percent had been breast-fed. Among children who didn't wet the bed, 81.2 percent had been breast-fed.

The researchers also found that children who didn't wet the bed had been breast-fed for a longer period than bed-wetters, an average of three months longer.

When the researchers categorized the children based on duration of breast-feeding, they found that breast-feeding less than three months wasn't associated with a protective effect against bed-wetting.

That finding meshes with other studies that revealed developmental advantages associated with breast-feeding longer than three months, Barone said.

An estimated 40 percent of 3-year-olds wet the bed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The exact causes aren't totally understood, but experts believe that, for some children, the bladder isn't developed enough to hold urine for a full night. Other children can't yet recognize when their bladder is full and don't wake up in time to relieve themselves.

Family history also seems to play a big role, Bennett said. If two parents wet the bed as children, their child has a 77 percent chance of being a bed-wetter. If one parent did, the child has about a 43 percent chance. If neither parent did, there's only a 15 percent chance their child will have a bed-wetting problem, he said.

And Bennett noted: "It is much too early to add 'the prevention of bed-wetting' is another reason why mothers should breast-feed their babies. Because of this study, mothers should not feel guilty they did not breast-feed or breast-feed long enough."

More information

For more on bed-wetting, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCES: Joseph G. Barone, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and urology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J.; Howard Bennett, M.D., pediatrician, Washington, D.C., and author, Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting, 2005, American Academy of Pediatrics; July 2006, Pediatrics

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