Monday, March 10th, 2014
A study that is making headlines across the media and in parenting blogs suggests that the long-term benefits attributed to breastfeeding–such as lower risks of obesity, asthma, and behavior disorders–are actually more a function of the good health and socioeconomic status of mothers who breastfeed, rather than developmental effects of the breast milk itself. More from The New York Times:
Researchers at Ohio State University compared 1,773 sibling pairs, one of whom had been breast-fed and one bottle-fed, on 11 measures of health and intellectual competency. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14 years.
The researchers recorded various health and behavioral outcomes in the sibling pairs, including body mass index, obesity, asthma, hyperactivity, reading comprehension, math ability and memory-based intelligence. The study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, found no statistically significant differences between the breast-fed and bottle-fed siblings on any of these measures.
By studying “discordant” siblings — one of whom had been breast-fed and the other not — the authors sought to minimize the possibility that racial, socioeconomic, educational or other differences between families could affect the results. Many earlier studies on breast-feeding failed to control for such factors, they say.
Campaigns to increase the rate of breast-feeding have been highly successful in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three-quarters of American mothers now breast-feed, compared with less than two-thirds in 2000, and about 49 percent are still breast-feeding at six months, compared with 34 percent in 2000.
Yet despite this increase, researchers have consistently found large socioeconomic and racial disparities in breast-feeding rates. A C.D.C. survey in 2008 found that 75 percent of white infants and 59 percent of black infants were ever breast-fed, and in 2013, the agency reported that 47 percent of white babies but only 30 percent of black babies were still being breast-fed at 6 months. Compared with bottle-fed infants, breast-fed babies are more likely to be born into families with higher incomes, have parents with higher educational attainments, and live in safer neighborhoods with easier access to health care services.
Still, sibling studies such as this latest one do not solve all the problems of bias. “We were not able to control for everything that could affect what would make a mom breast-feed one child and not the other,” said the lead author, Cynthia G. Colen, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State. “But we did control for premature birth, birth order, the age of the mother, and whether she was working when she had one infant and not when she had the other.”
Geoff Der, a statistician at the University of Glasgow who has worked with the same data in previous studies, said that the findings in the present study were robust and the authors’ method for eliminating selection bias was powerful. He had reassuring words for women who do not or cannot breast-feed.
“In a society with a clean water supply and modern formulas,” he said, “a woman who isn’t able to breast-feed shouldn’t be feeling guilty, and the likelihood that there’s any harm to the baby is pretty slim.”
Image: Baby having a bottle, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Newborn babies who are bottle-fed are twice as likely to develop a relatively rare stomach obstruction that can only be repaired surgically, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. More from Today.com:
Researchers still don’t know why some babies develop the obstruction, known as hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Jarod McAteer, a surgery research fellow at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This study just pinpoints some of the factors that increase the risk, he added.
What scientists do know is that in certain infants, the one-way valve, or sphincter, that allows partially digested food to progress from the stomach to the small intestine can stop working when the muscle that controls the valve’s opening and closing gets too thick. At that point, the connection between the stomach and the small intestine is essentially blocked.
Babies are at risk only when they are between 3- and 6-weeks- old, McAteer said.
“Usually in the first couple of weeks of life, they are completely normal, healthy babies,” he said. “Then they start vomiting and it progressively gets worse over a period of several days until they can’t hold anything down.”
The only solution is surgery to cut the muscle so it will relax and allow food to pass, McAteer said.
For the new study, McAteer and his colleagues from the University of Washington compared 714 infants who developed hypertrophic pyloric stenosis to 7,140 “control” babies who did not develop the obstruction.
After accounting for other known risk factors for obstruction, such as being male and first born, the researchers determined that bottle feeding also significantly raised the risk. In fact, bottle feeding was twice as common among babies with an obstruction, at 19.5 percent, compared with those in the control group (9.1 percent).
Babies with older mothers were also more likely to develop HPS.
Image: Baby with bottle, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Personality traits, including a proclivity for anxiety or social extroversion, have been found to correlate with a mother’s choice to feed her baby by bottle or breast. LiveScience.com has more on the study, which was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing:
Dr. Amy Brown, who studies early nutrition at Swansea University in Wales, surveyed 602 mothers of infants ages 6 to 12 months, to see if personality traits were linked to breast-feeding rates. The women in the study ranged in age from 16 to 45 years old, and spanned a spectrum of income, education and professional achievement levels.
Brown found extroverted, conscientious and emotionally stable mothers were more likely to try breast-feeding. But being agreeable or open to new experiences made no difference, according to the findings published Tuesday (Aug. 6) in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
More than 80 percent of the women in the study tried to breast-feed, but less than half who tried were still breast-feeding six months later. And women who switched from breast to bottle tended to switch quickly. About 73 percent of the women who stopped breast-feeding did so within two weeks after giving birth.
Women who were conscientious — for example, detailed-oriented and punctual — were likely to start, but also likely to stop breast-feeding.
Mothers who kept breast-feeding during the first six months were more extroverted and less anxious than mothers who always bottle-fed or switched to the bottle. The effect was particularly strong within the first six weeks after birth.
Image: Mother bottle-feeding her baby, via Shutterstock
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