06:41pm Tuesday 26 September 2017

Breastfeeding linked to infant temperament

n a cohort study of 316 babies aged 3 months, published in the journal PLoS One, breastfed infants were reported by their mothers to cry more and be harder to soothe than formula-fed babies.

Rather than being a sign of stress, the researchers say irritability is a natural part of the dynamic communication between mothers and babies and should not deter women from breastfeeding.

Lead researcher Dr Ken Ong, a Paediatrician from the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, said:

“There is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting breastfeeding as the normal and most healthy form of infant nutrition and our findings do not contradict this. Bottle-fed babies may appear more content, but research suggests that these infants may be over-nourished and gain weight too quickly. Our findings are essentially similar to other stages of life; people often find that eating is comforting.

 “Rather than being put off breast-feeding, parents should have more realistic expectations of normal infant behaviour and should receive better understanding and support to cope with difficult infant behaviours if needed. These approaches could potentially promote successful breastfeeding, because currently many mothers attempt to breastfeed but give up after the first few weeks.”

The Department of Health recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months after birth. According to the 2005 Infant Feeding Survey, three-quarters of new UK mothers start out breastfeeding their babies, but by four months this number has dropped to just one-third.

The most common reason given for women to stop breastfeeding is that “Breast milk alone didn’t satisfy my baby”, which reflects their perception of irritability as a negative signal.

Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, said:

“This study does not provide evidence for causality, but it does give us some fascinating insights into the complex and dynamic signalling between mother and baby. Understanding the determinants of infant feeding is a key step in designing appropriate interventions aimed at supporting healthy behaviours.”

The study was co-authored by researchers from the University of Cambridge and UCL (University College London). The Cambridge Baby Growth Study was supported by the European Union, the World Cancer Research Foundation International, the Medical Research Council and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, among others.

Notes to editors

Contact Hannah Isom

Senior press officer, Medical Research Council

T: 0207 395 2345 (out of hours 07818 428 297)

E: press.office@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

 

  • The paper: Breastfeeding and infant temperament at age three months, by de Lauzon-Guillain et al, is published in the journal PLoS One.

 

  • For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk

 

  • The University of Cambridge’s mission is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Cambridge’s reputation for excellence is known internationally and reflects the scholastic achievements of its academics and students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by its staff. Some of the most significant scientific breakthroughs occurred at the University, including the splitting of the atom, invention of the jet engine and the discoveries of stem cells, plate tectonics, pulsars and the structure of DNA. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, the University has nurtured some of history’s greatest minds and has produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other UK institution with over 80 laureates.

 

  • Founded in 1826, UCL (University College London) was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has 24,000 students from almost 140 countries, and more than 9,500 employees. Our annual income is over £800 million. www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews

 

  • The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world-class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients. www.nihr.ac.uk

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