A new study has revealed that children who were exclusively breastfed or fed a mixture of formula and breastmilk for the first six to eight weeks of life are less likely to experience special educational needs or learning disabilities.
According to the study from the University of Glasgow, having breastmilk in the first few weeks of life may help to reduce the risk of having special educational needs, or the learning disabilities and difficulties that often cause this.
The research, which was published in the Plos Medicine journal, focussed on the health and educational data for 191,745 children born in Scotland from 2004 onwards to understand the impact of early life feeding on later development.
The Scottish researchers looked at who attended a mainstream or special educational needs school between 2009 and 2013.
Of those included in the study, 66.2% of children were formula fed, 25.3% were breastfed, and only 8.5% were mixed-fed for the first six to eight weeks.
Breastfed children less likely to develop special educational needs
Overall, 12.1% of children in this study had a special educational need.
But when compared with formula feeding, early-life mixed feeding and exclusive breastfeeding were both associated with a decrease in the risk of having special educational needs — around 10% and 20% less likely, respectively.
Exclusively breastfed children were also less likely to have emotional or behavioural difficulties and physical health conditions.
Children with special educational needs on average experience lower educational attainment, higher rates of school absenteeism and exclusion, and higher rates of bullying and maltreatment, which can all further impact on their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Speaking about the findings, Dr Michael Fleming, who led the study at the University of Glasgow's School of Health and Wellbeing, said:
"The results of this study suggest that feeding method in infancy could be a modifiable risk factor for the causes of special educational need, which in turn has the potential to help reduce the burden for affected children, their families and wider society."
Non-exclusive breastfeeding still beneficial
As per current guidelines, the World Health Organisation guidance recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
But due to several factors, many mums, even if they do start to breastfeed initially, struggle to make it to this mark.
Caribbean Moms is a judgement-free zone and we firmly believe that how you feed your baby is YOUR choice.