The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood

48 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2010

See all articles by Clive R. Belfield

Clive R. Belfield

Columbia University Teachers' College - National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education

Inas Kelly

National Bureau of Economic Research; Loyola Marymount University

Date Written: October 2010

Abstract

The choice to breastfeed rather than formula-feed an infant as well as the duration of doing so has been scrutinized in more recent times. Yet, key identification issues remain to be resolved, including the array of possible child development benefits, the optimal intensity of breastfeeding versus formula- feeding, and the possibility of confounding with other inputs that promote child health. This study uses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey - Birth Cohort to explore the causal effect of breastfeeding on development across the early years of childhood. We examine a range of health, physical, and cognitive outcomes and relate these to a set of breastfeeding and formula-feeding intensities. Adjusting for a very extensive set of potential confounding factors that also promote child development, our empirical method uses simultaneous equations models and propensity score measures to understand the link between breastfeeding and child outcomes. Our results indicate that breastfeeding and not formula-feeding at birth are associated with increased probabilities of being in excellent health at 9 months. Furthermore, they are protective against obesity and improve cognitive outcomes at 24 months and 54 months. Breastfeeding for 6 months or more increases motor scores at 9 months.

Suggested Citation

Belfield, Clive R. and Kelly, Inas, The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood (October 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16496. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1699573

Clive R. Belfield (Contact Author)

Columbia University Teachers' College - National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education ( email )

525 W. 120th St.
New York, NY 10027
United States

Inas Kelly

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Loyola Marymount University ( email )

7900 Loyola Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045
United States

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