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[pronut-hiv] BBC: Breastfeeding 'aids class status'


  • From: "ProNut-HIV" <pronut-hiv@healthnet.org>
  • Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 10:57:23 -0500

Babies who are breastfed are more likely to move up the social ladder
as adults, a study has suggested.
The University of Bristol team looked at 1,400 babies born from
1937-1939 and followed their progress for 60 years.

Those who were breastfed were 41% more likely to move up in class than
those who were bottle-fed.

Experts said the Archives of Disease in Childhood study supported the
idea that breastfeeding led to better long-term outcomes for children.

The people studied had all originally taken part in the Boyd Orr Study
of Diet and Health in Pre-War Britain carried out in 1937-1939.

They were followed up until an average age of 73.

Whether or not a baby was breastfed was less to do with class than it
is now, when the practice is often more popular with middle-class
families.

In fact, there may have been a slightly increased chance that richer
families would bottle-feed babies, because they would be able to afford
formula milk and nannies.

IQ

The study found there was no difference in breastfeeding rates when the
researchers looked at household income or social class.

Those who had been breastfed had a 58% chance of moving up the social
ladder compared to 50% of those who were bottle-fed - a relative
difference of 41% when the statistics were adjusted to take into account
other factors which might influence the outcome.

The longer a child was breastfed, the greater were their chances of
upward mobility, the results showed.

And in families where one child was breastfed while a sibling was
bottle-fed, there was still a difference in their chances of social
mobility, with the breastfed child 16% more likely to move up in class.

Dr Richard Martin, who led the research, said: "We thought that if
breastfeeding increased IQ and health in the long-term, it may also have
an impact on social status."

But he added: "The question is whether that's an effect of the
breastfeeding - something to do with the biological process which has an
effect on brain development, or about the activity itself - such as
improved bonding with mother, or that people who were breastfed were
raised in a better social environment."

Dr Martin said more work was needed to pin down what the explanation
was.

Later benefits

Dr Andrew Lyon, a consultant neonatologist and spokesman for the Royal
College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "This is a
fascinating study which supports the existing body of knowledge that
breastfeeding results in better outcomes for babies.

"However, the authors themselves admit that the study should be
interpreted with caution, and that the findings warrant further
investigation before firm conclusions can be drawn".

Dr Mary Fewtrell, a child nutrition expert at the Institute of Child
Health, said: "There is quite a bit of epidemiological evidence
suggesting that breastfeeding confers benefits for later height,
cognitive function and other health outcomes.

"The upward social mobility could be due to an effect of breastfeeding
on any of these outcomes - that is, breastfeeding could enable an
individual to increase his or her social class by increasing adult
height, improving general health or directly increasing IQ and
attainment."