Breastfeeding is generally thought to be healthier for newborn babies than bottle feeding. According to a new study published today in Breastfeeding Medicine, breastfeeding may even keep children from developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as they get older.

There are generally three ADHD subtypes, with patients classified as either primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive or impulsive, or both. Current research shows there may be a genetic component to ADHD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Other possible risk factors include brain injury, environmental exposure to toxins like lead, and premature delivery. Treatment usually consists of a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.

Researchers in Israel conducted a retrospective matched study, in which they compared six- to 12-year-old children diagnosed with ADHD to two control groups, one of which was a group of healthy kids with ADHD-afflicted siblings and the second of which was a group of healthy kids with no family history of ADHD. The researchers conducted a questionnaire on these children and their families, asking about demographic and medical information as well as feeding history in the first few years of life, along with an ADHD screening questionnaire.

They found that in the group of children later diagnosed as having ADHD, 43 percent were breastfed at three months of age and 20 percent were breastfed at six months of age, compared to 69 percent and 50 percent respectively in the group of kids with siblings with ADHD and 73 percent and 57 percent respectively in the healthy kids.

"A stepwise logistic regression ... demonstrated a significant association between ADHD and lack of breastfeeding at 3 months of age, maternal age at birth, male gender, and parental divorce," the researcher wrote. "Children with ADHD were less likely to breastfeed at 3 months and 6 months of age than children in the two control groups. We speculate that breastfeeding may have a protective effect from developing ADHD later in childhood."

Mimouni-Bloch, A, Kachevanskaya, A, Mimouni, FB, et al. Breastfeeding May Protect from Developing Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2013; doi:10.1089. Accessed May 14, 2013.