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The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood

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  • Clive R. Belfield
  • Inas Rashad Kelly

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

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16496
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    Cited by:

    1. George Wehby, 2014. "Breastfeeding and Child Disability: A Comparison of Siblings from the United States," NBER Working Papers 19940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2012. "Returns to Schooling in Urban China: New Evidence Using Heteroskedasticity Restrictions to Obtain Identification Without Exclusion Restrictions," Monash Economics Working Papers 33-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Anita Kottwitz & Anja Oppermann & C. Katharina Spiess, 2016. "Parental leave benefits and breastfeeding in Germany: effects of the 2007 reform," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 859-890, December.
    4. Resul Cesur & Joseph J. Sabia & Inas Rashad Kelly & Muzhe Yang, 2017. "The effect of breastfeeding on young adult wages: new evidence from the add health," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 25-51, March.
    5. María Fernanda Rosales, 2014. "Impact of Early Life Shocks on Human Capital Formation: El Niño Floods in Ecuador," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87693, Inter-American Development Bank.
    6. De Cao, Elisabetta, 2014. "The height production function from birth to maturity," Research Report 14018-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    7. Borra, Cristina & Iacovou, Maria & Sevilla, Almudena, 2012. "The effect of breastfeeding on children's cognitive and noncognitive development," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 496-515.
    8. Emla Fitzsimons & Marcos Vera-Hernandez, 2013. "Food for Thought? Breastfeeding and Child Development," IFS Working Papers W13/31, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    9. repec:eee:socmed:v:187:y:2017:i:c:p:101-108 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2014. "It pays to be happy (if you are a man): Subjective wellbeing and the gender wage gap in Urban China," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(3), pages 392-414, May.
    11. Awaworyi Churchill, Sefa & Smyth, Russell, 2017. "Friendship network composition and subjective wellbeing," EconStor Preprints 158003, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    12. repec:eee:cysrev:v:79:y:2017:i:c:p:115-125 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Mishra, Vinod & Smyth, Russell, 2015. "Estimating returns to schooling in urban China using conventional and heteroskedasticity-based instruments," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 166-173.
    14. Iryna Topolyan & Qian Wang & Xu Xu, 2015. "Peer Effects in Breastfeeding: Evidence from the IFPS II Study," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 5, pages 33-44, August.
    15. repec:dgr:rugsom:14018-eef is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:108-122 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2013. "Are more senior academics really more research productive than junior academics? Evidence from Australian law schools," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 96(2), pages 411-425, August.
    18. Awaworyi Churchill, Sefa & Smyth, Russell, 2017. "Ethnic Diversity and Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 285-302.
    19. repec:eee:ecmode:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:475-483 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Wehby, George L., 2014. "Breastfeeding and child disability: A comparison of siblings from the United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 13-22.
    21. Del Bono, Emilia & Rabe, Birgitta, 2012. "Breastfeeding and child cognitive outcomes: evidence from a hospital-based breastfeeding support policy," ISER Working Paper Series 2012-29, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    22. repec:eee:ecmode:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:465-472 is not listed on IDEAS

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    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General

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