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Breastfeeding and child cognitive outcomes: evidence from a hospital-based breastfeeding support policy

  • Del Bono, Emilia
  • Rabe, Birgitta

This paper estimates the causal effects of breastfeeding on early child development using exogenous variation in breastfeeding support policies across UK maternity hospitals. Based on data from the Millennium Cohort Study, we find that mothers giving birth in hospitals where such policies are implemented are between 8 and 9 percentage points more likely to breastfeed exclusively at 4 and 8 weeks than mothers who give birth in other hospitals. The effect of breastfeeding are found to be large and positive on many different measures of child cognitive development throughout early childhood. In contrast to the previous literature, we find no statistically significant impact of breastfeeding on a number of health outcomes, but we see an improvement in child emotional development and maternal mental health.

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File URL: https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2012-29.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for Social and Economic Research in its series ISER Working Paper Series with number 2012-29.

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Date of creation: 14 Dec 2012
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Publication status: published
Handle: RePEc:ese:iserwp:2012-29
Contact details of provider: Postal: Publications Office, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ UK
Phone: 44-1206-872957
Fax: 44-1206-873151
Web page: https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/
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Order Information: Postal: Publications Office, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ UK
Web: https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/publications/ Email:


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  1. Reilly, Siobhan & Evenhouse, Eirik, 2005. "Improved estimates of the benefits of breastfeeding using sibling comparisons to reduce selection bias," MPRA Paper 13434, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Clive R. Belfield & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2010. "The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood," NBER Working Papers 16496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kleibergen, Frank & Paap, Richard, 2006. "Generalized reduced rank tests using the singular value decomposition," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 97-126, July.
  4. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
  5. Francis Vella, 1998. "Estimating Models with Sample Selection Bias: A Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(1), pages 127-169.
  6. Baker, Michael & Milligan, Kevin, 2008. "Maternal employment, breastfeeding, and health: Evidence from maternity leave mandates," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 871-887, July.
  7. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2010. "Human Capital Development Before Age Five," NBER Working Papers 15827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kevin Denny & Orla Doyle, 2010. "The causal effect of breastfeeding on children’s cognitive development: A quasi-experimental design," Working Papers 201005, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  9. Vella, Francis, 1993. "A Simple Estimator for Simultaneous Models with Censored Endogenous Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 441-57, May.
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