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Is the breast best?

Breast feeding

A study out that questions the stated benefits of breast-feeding is sure to reignite the debate over whether breast is best.

The new research, published this week in the journal Social Science & Medicine, looked at longitudinal data from three separate populations: 8,237 children, 7,319 siblings and 1,773 sibling pairs where at least one child was breast-fed and at least one child was not.

Researchers measured 11 outcomes previously shown to be impacted by breast-feeding: body mass index (BMI); obesity; asthma; hyperactivity; parental attachment; behavior compliance; and achievement in vocabulary, reading recognition, math ability, intelligence and scholastic competence.

When they looked at data across all families, breast-feeding had better outcomes than bottle-feeding in factors like BMI, hyperactivity, math skills, reading recognition, vocabulary word identification, digit recollection, scholastic competence and obesity.

However, when the researchers looked just at the siblings who were fed differently, the benefits were not statistically significant.

The exception was that breast-fed children were at higher risk for asthma, though it was unclear if those reports were self-generated or actual diagnoses.