Got Milk? Breastfeeding May Prevent ADHD, Study Says.

Researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration.

Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period.  

The ADHD group was comprised of children that had been diagnosed at the hospital, the second group included the siblings of the ADHD patients, and the control group included children without neurobehavioral issues who had been treated at the clinics for unrelated complaints.

In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child’s life, parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical and demographic data that might also have an impact on the development of ADHD, including marital status and education of the parents, problems during pregnancy such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child, and genetic links to ADHD.

Taking all risk factors into account, researchers found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups.

At three months, only 43 percent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 percent of the sibling group and 73 percent of the control group. At six months, 29 percent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the control group.

I have often argued that much of what is being called ADHD today has more to do with attachment related issues.  Healthy parent-child attachment isn’t just a warm-fuzzy psychological bond.  It facilitates the development of healthy brain functioning.  As I point out here, brain-wise parenting practices such as extended nursing, extravagant affection, prompt responses to infant and toddler cries, and gentle discipline that teaches what to do vs. punishes what went wrong facilitates 8 of the 9 traits associated with mental health.  Attachment makes a real difference.  It requires a little more from moms and dads but it makes life so much easier in the long run.

About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

  • Roki

    It would be interesting to know why the ADHD kids received less breastfeeding, and at what point the ADHD symptoms were first identified. For example, was breastfeeding more difficult because the child was too fidgety or some such thing?

    Especially since many of the siblings seemed to be breastfed at different rates than the ADHD group, I wonder what motivated the change from one sibling to another.

  • Gina

    Sigh. And those parents who practiced “extended nursing, extravagant affection, prompt responses and gentle discipline”…. but still had kids who developed ADHD? Is it still their fault for not being “attached” enough?

    I know three kids with ADHD, and all have mothers who practice forms of so-called “attachment parenting.” All of these moms know that ADHD is a real and often- crippling disability. Your cheap analysis of this otherwise relevant study allows those parents who somehow escaped the trial of ADHD to preen smugly, while alienating those who struggled to do everything right and still “failed.”

    • Dave

      I think you’re reading a little too much into this. Dr. Greg doesn’t say that ADHD is not a real disability. Rather, he says much of what is called ADHD today is related to attachment. That doesn’t mean that people with healthy attachment can’t develop it or that it’s not a real disability. In fact, if we eliminated the attachment issue from the equation, we might be able to better direct resources and research to helping those with real ADHD.

  • Barbara Fryman

    I have feeling the garbage chemicals in our food, including formula, has a lot to do with it. Most kids I know diagnosed w ADHD and put on whole-food non GMO diets end up not needed medication. So, yes, breast milk, but also, healthy food!

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Somehow, I would think breastfeeding in front of a television *might* counteract this effect entirely.


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