According to research, babies who are exclusively breastfed or fed a mixture of formula and breast milk for the first six to eight weeks of life are less likely to have special educational needs or learning difficulties.
The study, led by the University of Glasgow and published in the journal PLOS Medicine , looked at data from 190,000 children to understand the impact of early nutrition on later development.
Evidence suggests that breast milk during the first weeks of life can help reduce the risk of special educational needs or learning disabilities and the problems they often cause.
World Health Organization guidelines recommend that babies be breastfed for the first six months. However, many women find it difficult to breastfeed for a long time.
This study provides evidence that shorter periods of nonexclusive breastfeeding can still benefit a child's lifelong learning.
Researchers looked at health and education data from 191,745 children born in Scotland since 2004.
They also looked at who attended formal or private schools between 2009 and 2013.
Of the babies included in the study, 66.2% were formula fed, 25.3% were formula fed and only 8.5% were mixed fed for the first six to eight weeks.
Overall, 12.1% of the children in this study had special educational needs.
But compared to formula feeding, early mixed feeding and exclusive breastfeeding were associated with a lower risk of having special educational needs, 10% and 20% lower odds, respectively.
Children who were exclusively breastfed were less likely to have emotional and behavioral problems (about 20% less) and physical health problems (about 25% less).
On average, children with special educational needs experience lower academic achievement, higher rates of school truancy and school exclusion, and higher levels of bullying and abuse, which can further affect their health. physical and mental well-being.
Dr Michael Fleming, who led the study at the University of Glasgow's School of Health and Wellbeing, said: "The results of this study suggest that breastfeeding may be a modifiable risk factor for SEN, which in turn has the potential to help reduce the burden on affected children, their families and the community as a whole”.
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