Breastfeeding Longer Could Prevent Mental Health Problems

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Breastfeeding isn't always easy. In fact, for some women it can be one of the most difficult and stressful challenges of coping with a newborn. But mounting evidence suggests that it's a challenge worth facing, and that resources aimed at helping women breastfeed for longer could be beneficial for children well past their babyhood. As Reuters reports, the latest study to underscore the importance of breastfeeding has found that babies who are breastfed for longer than six months could be at lower risk for mental health problems in later life.

The study was conducted by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth, Australia. It followed 2,366 newborns, who then had mental health assessments when they were 2, 5, 8, 10, and 14 years old. At each assessment, researchers found that children who had been breastfed for shorter amounts of time had worse behaviour. They were more likely to suffer from problems like depression and aggression. In fact, for each additional month a child was breastfed, their behaviour improved.

The study's authors noted that breastfeeding could help babies cope better with stress and may signal a stronger mother-child bond, and that these effects could last well into adolescence. The mothers who breastfed for less than six months were younger, less educated, poorer and more stressed than the mothers who breastfed longer. They were also more likely to suffer from post-partum depression. Researchers concluded that "interventions aimed at increasing breastfeeding duration could be of long-term benefit for child and adolescent mental health."

Fortunately, there are some great resources for Canadian moms who are looking for breastfeeding help.

  • The La Leche League Canada website will help you find breastfeeding support in your area, and connect you with other breastfeeding moms. They recommend the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (written by La Leche International) for mothers seeking information and inspiration.
  • The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute, located in Toronto and operated by longtime breastfeeding guru Dr. Jack Newman, has a website that addresses a host of breastfeeding issues, from latching to blocked ducts to sore nipples. They even offer a "Tips and Techniques" video online. As well, Dr. Jack Newman's Guide To Breastfeeding is a comprehensive resource book that bills itself as "every mother's personal lactation consultant."
  • Multiple Births Canada offers a Breastfeeding Support Network for mothers who want to breastfeed their twins, triplets or higher-order multiples, including a monthly newsletter called "The Milky Way."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.