ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can cause focus issues and impulsive behavior, including hyperactivity and emotional problems. While some children may show only a few of these symptoms, others may experience all of them to a more severe extent. It is estimated that approximately 5% of all children are affected by ADHD.
According to Autism Parenting Magazine, ADHD is a brain-based disorder that affects about 5% of all children and 2.5% of adults in the United States.
While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, several factors contribute to the condition and its severity. These include genetic and environmental factors and other developmental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Breastfeeding and ADHD
Research has shown that breastfeeding during the first year of a child's life can have many benefits, from reduced risk of illnesses to improved cognitive function. Some research has even suggested that breastfeeding can increase the size of certain areas of the brain, which could cause a lower risk of attention issues.
A recent study by Tel Aviv University researchers found that breastfed children had fewer symptoms of ADHD later in life than those who were not. The study looked at nearly 150 children and analyzed their scores on two standardized tests – one for hyperactivity and another for behavioral control problems. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ADHD by promoting a strong bond between mother and baby and providing essential nutrients to help boost brain development.
Formula-fed children at three months of age were discovered to be three times more likely to develop ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same time. These results have been publicized in Breastfeeding Medicine.
Breastfeeding has a positive impact on physical and mental development. This study found a significant connection between ADHD and the absence of breastfeeding at three months of age. They also concluded that breastfeeding might protect from developing ADHD later in childhood.
There is growing evidence pointing to a link between breastfeeding and reduced risk of ADHD. However, many other factors, such as genetics and environmental factors, can affect the risk of ADHD in children. Parents should always consult their healthcare provider if they have concerns about their child's development or behavior.
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Bonding and Oxytocin
Not only does breast milk deliver protective properties, but the bond that breastfeeding creates benefits babies enormously. It has been proven that early mother-infant bonding and skin-to-skin contact can influence a child's intellectual and emotional development. If a mother cannot breastfeed, her baby can still benefit from being close. Other ways to improve closeness and bonding include infant massage, comfort nursing, babywearing, and cosleeping.
Psychologists and anthropologists who have studied the behavior of mothers and babies who are always together have learned that they shape each other's behavior. Mothers who practice babywearing are more responsive to their little one's needs. Motion is also essential to a baby. It stimulates their vestibular system, which is the parts of the inner ear that controls balance; this helps to improve muscle tone, necessary for motor development, brain development, gastrointestinal and lung health.
Socio-affective responses in breastfed children are also improved due to improved Oxytocin release. During early brain development, Oxytocin helps to organize neural circuits in the brain that affect appropriate social behaviors later in life. When you cuddle with your baby, smile with them, and see to their needs, their brain releases the hormone Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is an important part of the mother and infant bonding process. This hormone is released during loving behaviors, making us feel good about a person. The surge of Oxytocin while nursing is one of the ways that the mother falls in love with her baby.
What Does Breast Milk Contain That Formula Does Not?
White blood cells, antibodies, anti-inflammatories, immunostimulants such as antioxidants, enzymes, and hormones. Additionally, breast milk contains compounds such as choline, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and arachidonic acid, which are crucial for healthy cognitive and neurological function.
Breastfeeding Stimulates White Matter Brain Growth
White brain matter consists of myelin, the fatty material that protects nerve fibers and speeds up the electrical impulses between neural networks within the brain. This study found that white matter growth is an astounding 20 - 30 percent higher in breastfed children. This is compelling evidence that breastfeeding improves neurodevelopment. The improved cognitive performance is linked to the fatty acids in breast milk that boost the growth of white matter in the brain.
Researchers discovered that babies who were exclusively breastfed for at least three months were found at the age of two to have enhanced brain development. The areas of the brain most pronounced were the parts associated with language, cognition, and emotional function.
This same study looked at whether the duration of breastfeeding affected the increases in brain growth. They compared babies who had been breastfed for a year and those that were breastfed for less than a year. They found significantly more growth in the babies who were breastfed longer - notably in the motor function areas of the brain.
Do these findings correlate with ADHD protection while breastfeeding?
Yes, many DTI studies in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have shown delays in developing white brain matter.
This study supports the recommendations that infants be breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months.
Support and Treatment Options
Many effective treatment options are available for ADHD, including medication and behavioral therapy. It's also important to remember that even if breastfeeding does help to reduce the risk of ADHD in children, it's not a guarantee of protection.
ADHD can significantly affect a child's ability to learn and succeed in school and their social and emotional well-being. While the condition can be managed through various treatment options, children living with ADHD may need additional support at school, including tutoring or other accommodations. Parents can help their children by providing consistent structure, clear rules and expectations, positive reinforcement for good behavior, and limiting distractions during homework time.
If you are concerned about your child's development or behavior, it's important to seek support from a healthcare provider. Children with ADHD can lead happy and healthy lives with the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Many resources are available online and in your community to help you navigate this journey, so be sure to reach out for support whenever you need it.