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Breastfeed for a higher social class

Thu, 27th Jun 2013

Chris Smith

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Being breastfed could help you climb the social ladder, a new first-of-a-kind study has shown. Breastfeeding an infant

Breastfeeding is known to confer a range of health benefits, but it might also contribute to being upwardly mobile.

UCL epidemiologist Amanda Sacker and her colleagues compared the social classes of the parents of two large groups, each of more than 16,000 people, one born in 1958 and the other in 1970, with the social classes of the individuals themselves when they were aged 33, and asked whether they had been breastfed as infants.

Compared with their parental social class, breastfed participants in either of the two age groups were 25% more likely to have climbed the social ladder and 20% less likely to have been downwardly socially mobile by age 33.

The effect, which the researchers suggest is causal based on their results, was also related to how long a baby received breast milk, with the strongest relationship emerging for those babies who were breastfed for longer than four weeks.

The team speculate that the effects may be both nutritional, reflecting the essential fatty acids, antibodies and growth factors supplied by breast milk, and emotional, reflecting enhanced mother-baby bonding and the fact that breast-fed babies may be less susceptible to the effects of stress.

But, these are just speculations that require formal investigation. Writing in Archives of Disease in Childhood, the team point out that "more research is needed on the association between between breast feeding and child cognitive and socio-emotional development to elucidate the causal mechanisms through which breast feeding can have lifelong implications for health and well-being."

It should also be emphasised that the effect is probably not retrospective either...



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Correlation or causation?

I think it might be more likely that breast feeding correlates with other factors that have a positive impact on social status. It seems difficult to infer any causation from this study. AntonMaeso, Thu, 25th Jul 2013

Smoking is a fantasy version of breastfeeding. The cigarette is the nipple; the hand against the mouth is the breast; the smoke is the milk; and the most important part, the second hand smoker, is the fantasy mother. Most cigarette advertising portrays smoking as integral to a higher-status lifestyle. grizelda, Thu, 25th Jul 2013

Agree with Anton that other social factors are more likely to be the actual reasoning for any social advantage. Parents who breast feed are probably more likely to be aware of the benefit to the child and apply this same reasoning to other aspects of the child's life. JSparkle, Thu, 8th Aug 2013

I'm the single care giver of two children, one is 9 the other is 7; they are full blooded siblings. The first born never latched to there moms nipples and the second born did. I have not seen any difference in the social standing out side of there age differences. But at the same time I, there father, have bin there only care giver for most of there lives and as such may of squid the outcome.

on a side note grizelda are you an ex smoker because if you are then what you said is invalid allgoaway, Mon, 2nd Sep 2013

Not only am I an ex-smoker, but I am also an ex-secondhand smoker. I avoid people who smoke like the plague. Fortunately societal trends have made it relatively easy to avoid public exposure to smoke where I live, so I am no longer dragooned into being some smokers fantasy mother. grizelda, Wed, 4th Sep 2013

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