Children who are breastfed for more than six months are less likely to have mental health problems in later life, according to new research.
Experts believe that nutrients in mothers' milk, and the bonding process, may have a long-lasting effect on their babies' brain development. The finding, to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics, came after researchers analysed the medical records of more than 2,000 children in Western Australia.
Professor Wendy Oddy, who led the study, said breastfeeding appeared to have 'significant benefits for the mental health of a child into adolescence'. She added: 'There has been much evidence about the benefits of early breastfeeding but the importance of this study is that it shows continued benefits from extended feeding. Given the rising prevalence of mental health problems, interventions to assist mothers to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for longer, could be of long term benefit to the community. As with any of these types of studies, it should be stressed that the findings do not mean that individual children that weren't breastfed will have mental health problems, it's about lowering the risk at a population level.'