How Does Breastfeeding Affect The Risk Of Autism In A Baby?

Dr. Herbert answers the question: 'Breastfeeding And Risk Of Autism?'

ByMartha Herbert, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital; Asst. Prof., Neurology, Harvard
October 15, 2008, 10:29 AM

Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: How does breastfeeding affect the risk of autism in a baby?

Answer: Breastfeeding is not in itself a risk for autism. It's what may be in the breast milk. As we're learning that there are many substances, toxins in the environment, that can be present in breast milk. And they may be a risk for things which could contribute to autism, such as altered brain development. At the same time, though, breast milk is very protective of infants and toddlers because of the immune chemicals, the immunoglobulins that protect the baby from infections and many other things.

So it's a challenge that we have unhealthy things in our breast milk from the environment. But since breast milk is so important, it gives us motivation to clean up what's in our foods and our environment so we can give healthy breast milk to children.

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