A new research showed that breastfed infants are more likely to better deal with life problems, stress, anxiety and other emotional disorders than babies fed on formula. Publishing their report in the online version of the British Medical Journal, scientists from the Karolinksa Institute, Sweden, found that bottle-fed infants have a four to five times higher risk to be exposed to emotional distress later in life. This can occur in problematic family situations, like when parents divorce or separate.
The research team investigated data of about 9,000 children regarding their weight, feeding method when infants, social and educational level of the parents etc. When the children were 10 years old, scholars interviewed their parents and teachers and asked for information about the emotional status of kids - anxiety, stress levels etc.
The results showed that all children with family problems, caused by parents separating or divorcing, presented emotional distress symptoms. But there was a big difference registered between those who had been breastfed and those who received formula. Breastfed children whose parents had gone through a divorce were 2 time more anxious than their little fellows who led a happy family life. On the other hand, non-breastfed children proved to be 9 times more stressed than those in whole families.
"These children were still quite young to be exposed to huge levels of stress and, in theory, if they hadn't experienced separation or divorce they would all have similar levels of anxiety - though the breastfed children would have hidden reserves of resilience. We found that the non-breastfed children were nine times as likely to be distressed by divorce, while in the breastfed group they were only twice as likely to be distressed," said research leader, Dr Scott Montgomery.
The reasons why breastfed children are more able to cope with the harsh reality of life are still unknown to scientists. However, they pointed out that breastfeeding process creates a powerful physical and emotional bond between mother and infant which could be very useful for the baby's self esteem and confidence in himself later in life. Breastfeeding may also influence the levels of stress hormones in infants' bodies.
"The more we look at breast-feeding, the more benefits we see. As this is something that is, in evolutionary terms, normal it is likely to be important in normal human development. Breastfeeding may also affect the quality of the bonding between mother and child, and the way in which the two relate to each other. And this may have a lasting impact on the child's anxiety levels in response to stressful life events," the medical team claims.