Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

From the bottle to the ASBO

There's good news for lawyers defending juvenile delinquents today; a study has concluded that breast-fed babies go on to develop fewer behavioural problems than their bottle-fed counterparts.

Only 6% of children who were breastfed showed signs of behaviour problems, compared with 16% of children who were formula-fed.

Ah, you may say, but what about other factors? It is, after all, well established that the mother's age, education and - whisper it softly - social class all play a part in the decision to breast-feed. The scientists,  it seems, have already thought of that:

But even after the researchers, from the Universities of Oxford, Essex, York and University College London, adjusted their figures to take that into account, they still found there was a 30% greater risk of behavioural problems among formula-fed children.

Now I can't imagine that levelling such a playing fields is an exact science but they seem happy with their conclusion, though it presents some difficulty to those trying to report it without seeming to condemn mothers who bottle-feed - a dilemma summed up by the Royal College of Midwives:

"We must not send a negative message to mothers that they have failed, or make then feel guilty because they bottle-fed their babies."

Good luck with that one! I expect Mumsnet is buzzing with self-justification and righteous indignation, though I have no intention of trying to find out. Meanwhile I suggest there should be some sort of prize for the first defence barrister to stand up in court and plead the extenuating circumstances of his client being bottle-fed from birth.


  1. What about bottle-fed adults?

  2. It seems that everyone's got an opinion and wants to tie it down to a physical or psychological cause.

    It might simply be that if you are the sort of person who had a child on a whim, with little or no interest in it, you're more likely to shove a bottle in its gob so you can go do your own thing.

    Rather than look at the method of feeding, shouldn't they look at the mother herself?

  3. AKH, I think Grace Jones has that one covered.

    JuliaM, I agree; a mother prepared to, in the words of one I know, 'sit down, shut up and think cow' whenever her baby needs feeding is probably more likely to ensure the baby's other needs are met before her own - and that operates at both ends of the social/educational spectrum (consider the city high-flyers back to work 6 weeks after giving birth).

    Like education, everyone has an opinion because everyone has some relevant experience.