By FIONA MACRAE
The latest research sheds new light on the theory that 'breast is best'
It is often said that breast is best. But bottle-fed babies are the best behaved.
A study of British infants found those who were breast-fed cried more, smiled and laughed less and were harder to soothe and get off to sleep than their formula-fed counterparts. The Cambridge researchers however, say that the irritability linked to breastfeeding is only natural, and not a sign of stress or even necessarily hunger.
Instead, it is the baby’s way of bonding and seeking attention and security.
While bottle fed babies may seem more content, they may simply have eaten too much.
Like adults who comfort eat, they may have been calmed by eating, or drinking, more than they should.
A crying baby may simply be seeking the comfort and closeness of its mother, researchers say
In one of the first studies of its kind, the temperament of more than 300 babies was assessed when they were three months old.
This was done by asking their mothers to answer almost 200 questions about their children from how they responded to being washed and dressed to how easy they were to get down to sleep.
The results varied little between boys and girls, socio-economic status of the parents or the mother’s age.
However, there was a clear link with the method of feeding, the journal PLoS ONE reports.
Researcher Ken Ong, of the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, said that the cries of a breast-fed baby don’t necessarily mean it is hungry.
Instead, the child may simply be seeking the comfort and closeness of its mother.
Dr Ong, a paediatrician, said: ‘If anything, what might account for the difference is that bottle-fed babies possibly get more nutrients than is typical.
‘Research suggests that these infants may be over-nourished and gain weight too quickly.
‘Our findings are essentially similar to other stages of life; people often find that eating is comforting.
‘Rather than being put off breast-feeding, parents should have more realistic expectations of normal infant behaviour and should receive better understanding and support to cope with difficult infant behaviours if needed.
‘These approaches could potentially promote successful breastfeeding, because currently many mothers attempt to breastfeed but give up after the first few weeks.’
Clare Byam-Cook, a former midwife who has taught celebrities such as Kate Winslet and Natasha Kaplinsky how to feed their babies, said: ‘Breast is definitely best – as long as mother and baby are thriving on it.
‘But if your baby is crying and unsettled and when you give it a bottle it becomes calm and settled, then a bottle is best.
‘If you offer the baby a bottle and he doesn’t settle, then something else is the problem and the mother needs to find out what it is.’