Deprived of Breastfeeding in Infancy, Vulnerable to Severe Depression in Adulthood

Though pediatricians and public-health officials have fought to increase the practice of breastfeeding, their efforts have often proven fruitless in a world of out-of-wedlock childbirths and out-of-home maternal employ­ment. And unfortunately, evidence continues to mount that children deprived of breastfeeding in infancy pay a price later on. The latest evi­dence comes from a study in Brazil finding distinctively high levels of psychological problems among adults who were not breastfed as babies. Published by researchers at the Federal University of Pelotas and the Universidade Católica de Pelotas, both Brazilian institutions of higher education, this new study probes the long-term effects of breastfeeding. The scholars conducting the study acknowledge that previous research has already established that individuals breastfed as babies are signifi­cantly less vulnerable to “behavioral and internalization problems, psy­chological stress, and depressive/anxiety symptoms” than are individuals who were not breastfed during infancy. More particularly, the researchers recognize prior studies conclud­ing that, compared to individuals who were not breastfed during infancy, those who were breastfed achieve better performance on cognitive tests, manifest fewer behavioral and internalization problems, suffer from less psychological stress, and prove more resistant to depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). But the authors of this new study launch their inquiry because studies evaluating the effect of breastfeeding on “specific mental health disorders are scarce” and because some earlier studies “have failed to observe an association between breastfeeding and later mental health.” Desirous of filling the gaps and resolving the inconsistencies in the previ­ous research on the matter, the Brazilian scholars set out “to assess the association between breastfeeding and mental health outcomes in young adults.” To that end, the resear
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