Breastfeeding, when possible, is one of the best ways for a mother to give her infant a healthy head start in life. Babies who are breast fed establish a healthy balance of bacteria in their intestines, rich in beneficial bifidobacteria. An early diet of nature’s perfect food confers a number of benefits to the recipient babies, including possible protection against later development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) according to a recent study published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.
Researchers found a link between breastfeeding rates and the development of ADHD in children aged six to 12. Children who were bottle fed at three months of age were three times more likely to have ADHD than those children who were breastfed. This trend continued through the first year of life. The researchers carefully controlled for other risk factors that also contribute to ADHD development, and they compared children with ADHD, siblings of children with ADHD, and children without ADHD.
The researchers do not yet know why breastfeeding was protective. Future studies will help elucidate these details. My hunch is that the establishment of bacterial balance at such an early age may play a role. Healthy gut balance is continually being linked to not only digestive health, but also brain health. Breast fed babies have a unique advantage when it comes to the gut-brain connection. Perhaps later studies will show that gut balance, indeed, plays a role in healthy brain development during childhood. We shall see. I’ll keep you updated as science catches up.