Breastfeed for a higher social class

27 June 2013
Posted by Chris Smith.

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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