Monday, May 24, 2010

Another bonus of breastfeeding

We know breast is best, but it’s now been shown to improve your child’s mental health

Earlier this year, a report was released from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, that showed children who are breastfed for longer than six months have a lower risk of mental health problems as they enter their teen years.
The research, led by Associate Professor Wendy Oddy, found that breastfeeding for a longer duration appears to have significant benefits for the mental health of the child into adolescence.
“There has been much evidence about the benefits of early breastfeeding, but the importance of this study is that it shows continued benefits from extended feeding,” Dr Oddy said.
“Given the rising prevalence of mental health problems, interventions to assist mothers to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for longer, could be of long-term benefit to the community.
“As with any of these types of studies, it should be stressed that the findings do not mean that individual children that weren’t breastfed will have mental health problems, it’s about lowering the risk at a population level.”
The research team analysed data from more than 2000 children involved in Western Australia's Raine Study. The participants underwent a mental health assessment when they were 2, 5, 8, 10, and 14 years old.
At each of the assessments, the research team found a link between breastfeeding duration and behaviour.
It’s not something commonly discussed among parenting circles, but many children have mental health problems that interfere with normal development and functioning.

Problems can stem from a variety of issues such as marriage breakdowns, sibling rivalry, sexual abuse and bullying. Problems can include:
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, ADD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Childhood-onset Schizophrenia
Behavioural problems can occur in children of all ages and may start in early life.
According to Mental Health Australia, toddlers and young children may have serious behavioural problems.
They can be rude, swear, throw tantrums, punch, kick, break toys or be spiteful to other children.
It’s important to recognise, however, a serious behavioural problem as opposed to a child being naughty.
Signs of this to look out for include:
  • If a child continues to behave badly for several months or longer, is repeatedly being disobedient, cheeky and aggressive
  • If a child’s behaviour is out of character and he or she repeatedly breaks family rules or those of a school or community, it is likely this is much more than ordinary childish mischief or adolescent rebellion.
Many young children aged from 2-6 can be inattentive and restless, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are suffering from ADHD or ADD.
The terms “attention deficit”, “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder”, “hyperkinetic disorder” and “hyperactivity” are used by professionals to describe the problems of children who are overactive and have difficulty concentrating.
The signs to look out for with children who may be suffering ADHD include:
  • Being continually restless, fidgety and very active.
  • Continuously talking and interrupting people.
  • Being easily distracted and unable to finish or complete tasks.
  • Are inattentive and cannot concentrate on tasks; even those that are very simple and easy for most children.
  • Are impulsive and do things suddenly and unexpectedly without thinking first or considering the consequences.
  • Have difficulty waiting their turn, sharing or waiting in line or in a queue.
So what can parents do to help their child’s mental health?
Firstly, stay in touch with your child by being aware of their feelings and behaviour. This means spending lots of one-on-one time with them and enjoying family activities together.
Take an interest in what they enjoy, what they’re doing at school, who their friends are, and what is happening in their life.
Be a good role model in your own relationships, and try not to involve your child in adult problems.
Don’t compare your child with others, but let them know you love them just the way they are.
If you are concerned about your child, seek professional help from a trained mental health specialist or your GP.


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