Breastfed Babies Grow Up to Be Better Social Climbers, Study
Babies who were breastfed grow up with more potential and social mobility, according to a new study,
The research involved was based on changes in the social class of two groups of individuals born in 1958 (17,419 people) and in 1970 (16,771 people).
Study authors asked each of the children's mothers when their child was five or seven years old, whether they had breastfed him or her. Later researchers compared people's social class as children, based on the social class of their fathers when they were 10 or 11, with their social class as adults, measured when children turned 33 or 34.
Social class was categorized on a four-point scale ranging from unskilled/semi-skilled manual to professional/managerial. Researchers also accounted for other factors like children's brain development and stress scores, which were assessed using various psychological tests at the ages of 10 and 11.
The findings revealed that significantly fewer children were in 1970 than in 1958. Researchers found that more than 68 percent of mothers breastfed their children in 1958 compared with 36 percent in 1970. Researchers also found that social mobility changes over time, with people born in 1970 more likely to be upwardly mobile and less likely to be downwardly mobile than those born in 1958.
However, after accounting for background factors, researchers found that children who had been breastfed were consistently more likely to have climbed the social ladder than those who had not been breastfed. Researchers said the findings were true of the two groups studied.
Furthermore, researchers found that the size of the "breastfeeding effect" was the same in both time periods. Researchers found that breastfeeding increased the chances of upwards mobility by 24 percent and reduced the odds of downward mobility by around 20 percent for both groups.
Researchers explained that intellect and stress accounted for around 36 percent of the total impact of breastfeeding. The study revealed that breastfeeding enhances brain development, which boosts intellect, therefore increasing upwards social mobility. The study also revealed that breastfed children showed fewer signs of stress.
Researchers note that it is difficult to pinpoint what part of breastfeeding affords the greatest benefit to the child: the nutrients found in breast milk or the skin-to-skin contact and associated bonding during breastfeeding. However, they researchers said that the findings suggest that the breastfeeding confers a range of long-term health, developmental and behavioral to children, which persist into adulthood.
"Perhaps the combination of physical contact and the most appropriate nutrients required for growth and brain development is implicated in the better neurocognitive and adult outcomes of breastfed infants," researchers concluded.
The findings are published in the British Medical Journal.