Breastfeeding may help prevent children from developing ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) later in life, according to a new study.

The research was conducted by a team of Israeli researchers and published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

The scientists, led by Aviva Mimouni-Bloch, MD, of the Tel-Aviv University (TAU) Sackler Faculty of Medicine, wanted to determine whether the development of ADHD might be linked to a shorter duration of breastfeeding.

They compared breastfeeding history and other factors in children between the ages of 6 and 12 who were diagnosed with ADHD at Schneider’s Children Medical Center in Israel with data from two control groups of kids of the same age without the disorder.

One of the control groups consisted of healthy children whose brother or sister had ADHD – this group was considered as having a similar genetic background and environment as the research group.

The other group was made up of kids who were consulted at the clinic and were not suspected of having the neurological disorder.

The mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire which sought information about their educational, psychosocial, medical status, pregnancy and perinatal details.

The researchers looked at whether the mother breastfed exclusively, whether she breastfed and gave formula, or whether she only gave formula when the child was 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year old.

Kids who had ADHD were less likely to have been breastfed at 3 and 6 months of age than the children without the disorder, according to the results.

Only 43% of ADHD kids were breastfed at three months of age and just 29% were breastfed when they were 6 months old, the researchers explained.

Results showed that 69% of the siblings group and 73% of the other control group were breastfed when they were 3 months old, and at six months of age, 50% of the siblings group and 57% of the other group were breastfed.

Ruth Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine, said:

“Breastfeeding has been shown to have a positive impact on child development, good health, and protection against illness. Now, another possible benefit of breastfeeding for three months and especially six months or longer has been identified. This study opens another avenue of investigation in the prevention of ADHD.”

The authors concluded:

“Whether the lesser exposure to breastfeeding in ADHD children is causally associated with ADHD or, on the contrary, a consequence of early abnormalities of feeding behavior at the breast cannot be determined from the current study.

We speculate that prevention, at least partial, of ADHD may be added to the list of the multiple biological advantages of human milk feeding.”

A previous study found that ADHD often continues into adulthood, and kids with the disorder are also more likely to have other psychiatric conditions later in life.

Written by Sarah Glynn