Press Release

WABA International
Youth Day Statement 
12 August 2014
Breastfeeding Aids Mental Wellbeing!
The theme for International Youth Day for 2014 is “Youth and Mental Health”. WABA takes this occasion to reiterate that breastfeeding is an important factor that benefits child development and aids the wellbeing of both mother and child. 
According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  However, it was only recently that disruptions to mental health were considered ill-health, and initiatives were begun to take preventative measures against its occurrence.
Additionally, stigmas associated with mental illness are widespread in today’s society; and some still disregard its significance and implications.  In order for mobilization against stigmatization and proper care to begin and continue, education regarding the importance and prevention of mental illness is vital.
Of particular value is breastfeeding. In addition to its established physical benefits, particularly prevention of infections in childhood, breastfeeding gives infants a sense of security, confidence and trust, largely due to the effects of the hormone oxytocin and reduction of stress in both mother and baby.  A number of studies provide evidence that breastfeeding enhances mental health. These benefits however, still go largely unrecognised. They include:
  • meeting developmental milestones: breastfeeding has been shown to have a beneficial effect on attaining gross motor skills and overall mental development throughout childhood;
  • improving cognitive development: significantly higher cognitive function and language skills seen in adolescents who were breastfed as children, compared to their formula-fed counterparts;
  • increasing IQ in adults: babies who are breastfed longer  grow up to have increased intelligence as adults;
  • decreasing the risk of mental health and behavioral problems: breastfeeding for less than 6 months, compared with 6 months or more, was an independent predictor of mental health and behavioral problems.
According to these various studies, this valuable resource which is at our disposal can assist in improving development, positively affecting several different aspects of mental health. 
As such under this year’s slogan of “Youth and Mental Health,” WABA draws attention to breastfeeding as one of the factors enhancing mental health and development, and calls on the public, media, people’s organisations, CSOs/NGOs, and Governments to protect, promote and support breastfeeding – it is a winning goal for life!
  1. Anderson JW et al (1999) Breastfeeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 70: 525-35
  2. Heikkila K, Sacker A, Kelly Y, Renfrew MJ, & Quigley MA (2011). Breast feeding and child behavior in the Millennium Cohort Study. ADC Online First, doi:10.1136/adc.2010.201970
  3. Kramer MS, Aboud F, Mironova E. (2008) Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: New evidence from a large randomized trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2008: 65; 578-584.
  4. Lucas A et al. (1992). Breastmilk and subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm. Lancet 339: 261-264
  5. Mortensen EL et al (2002). The association between duration of breastfeeding and adult intelligence. JAMA 287: 2365-71.
  6. Oddy WH, Kendall GE, Li J et al (2010) The Long-Term Effects of Breastfeeding on Child and Adolescent Mental Health: A PregnaHYPERLINK ""ncy Cohort Study Followed for 14 Years. J peds. Vol 156, Issue 4, 568 - 574
  7. Quigley MA, Hockley, Carson, Kelly Y, Renfrew MJ, and Sacker A (2012). Breastfeeding is Associated with Improved Child Cognitive Development: A Population-Based CohorHYPERLINK ""t Study.   J Pediatr
  8. Sacker A, Kelly Y, Lacovou M, Cable N, & Bartley M (2013). Breast feeding and intergenerational social mobility: what are the mechanisms? ADC Online First, doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-303199
  9. Sacker A, Quigley M, Kelly Y. Breastfeeding and Developmental Delay: Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. Pediatrics. 2006;118: e682-e689 (doi:10.1542?peds.2005-3141)
  10. The Hormone of Closeness - the role of oxytocin in relationships Kerstin Uvnas Moberg 2013
  11. Uauy and Peirano (1999) Breast is best: human milk is the optimal food for brain development. Am J Clin Nutr70: 433-434
  12. Whitehouse AJO et al (2011) Duration of breastfeeding and language ability in middle childhood. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology; 25 p 44-55
For more information, please contact:

Key Writer:
Jerusalem Bereket

WABA Liaison Person:
Aida Redza
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