Duration of Breastfeeding Predicts Dimensions of Infant Temperament

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The benefits of breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding required to achieve those benefits have long been debated. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has noted benefits to the infant in such areas as increased immunity to infectious disease, improved neurodevelopment, reduced rates of infant mortality, as well possible benefits much later in life included reduced risk of obesity and diabetes. Other studies have suggested cognitive benefits of breastfeeding. As of 2001, the reported rate of the initiation of any breastfeeding at all in the US was 70% (46% breastfeeding exclusively—no formula supplementation), with 33% (17% exclusively) still breastfeeding at 6 months. The purpose of this study was to evaluate temperament differences among children who differed in breastfeeding history. To our knowledge no one to date has investigated the relationship between breastfeeding and dimensions of infant temperament. The data were collected through two studies being conducting by the Program for the Study of Infancy at East Tennessee State University. One is a study in which mother-infant pairs are brought into the lab for a one hour temperament, language, and mother-infant interaction procedure, and the other is an ongoing collection of temperament, language, and child history from a university laboratory school childcare program. The participants in these studies included 94 rural Appalachian children (83% White). When participants are first enrolled in these studies, parents are asked to fill out a Prenatal Birth Stress Inventory which included pregnancy and birth history variables and a temperament measure (Infant Behavior Questionnaire [IBQ], Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire [ECBQ], or Child Behavior Questionnaire [CBQ]). In our study, 71.6% of mothers reported breastfeeding for 3 months or more and 46.1% reported continuing to breastfeed for 6 months or more. We did not ask about exclusive versus supplemented breastfeeding. After statistical analysis, it was found that several dimensions of temperament differed in relation to duration of reported breastfeeding. Focused attention was unexpectedly lower in children who were breastfed for six months or more (n = 31; mean=3.69, SD=.88) than in children that were breastfed six months or less (n = 32; mean=4.56, SD=.85; F(1,61)=6.78, p=.012). Expected differences were found in other temperament dimensions. Frustration (F(1,53)=6.68, p = .013) and sadness (F(1,61) = 8.97, p = .004) were found to be significantly lower in infants that were breastfed six months or more. The ability to be soothed was rated significantly higher (F(1,61) = 5.03, p = .029) for the children who were breastfed six months or more than for children breastfed less than six months. Differences were found for the same variables in the same directions when comparing ratings of children breastfed 3 months or more compared to children breastfed less than three months.


johnson City, TN

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