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Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of ADHD in Kids

Update Date: May 14, 2013 03:07 PM EDT

A great deal of research has found that breastfeeding is both beneficial for mom and baby. However, a recent study has added to the bunch. Conducted by researchers from Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital, Tel Aviv University and the Rabin Medical Center in Israel, the researchers found that breastfeeding may lower the risk of ADHD in children.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a fairly common disorder among children, though its diagnosis remains controversial. In fact researchers say that it makes up 30 to 50 percent of referrals to mental health professionals among children. Though the condition is believed to be caused by genetic factors, since it often runs in families, research indicates that environment may play a role.

The researchers conducted the study by recruiting six- to 12-year-olds who were at a medical center and who had been diagnosed with ADHD. The children were matched up with two sets of healthy controls: children's siblings who were not diagnosed with or suspected of having ADHD, and neurotypical children in the same age group who had visited the same clinic. Siblings were included because they would supposedly have similar environmental and genetic backgrounds as the kids with ADHD.

For all of the children, their mothers were asked to fill out a questionnaire, which asked them about how long they had breastfed their children but also assessed the mothers' educational, psychosocial and medical history, including whether or not the mothers had been divorced before the children's diagnosis and whether they had ADHD themselves.

Researchers found that, at all stages, children who had ADHD were breastfed less often than their healthy counterparts. At one month of age, 63 percent of children with ADHD were breastfed, while 79 percent of their siblings and 86 percent of the other controls could say the same. By the time children with ADHD were six months old, only 29 percent of them were breastfed; meanwhile, 50 percent of their healthy siblings and 57 percent of the non-related children were breastfed.

Researchers found that mothers with children who had ADHD were significantly more likely to be older, to have less education and to be divorced and slightly more likely to smoke. However, researchers found that the correlation did not change the difference in breastfeeding rates between children with ADHD and without.

The study was published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.

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