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Does breast-feeding prevent bratty behavior?

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Breast-feeding linked to better behavior in new study. istockphoto

(CBS) Does bottle-feeding produce brats?

A new study by British scientists shows that babies who are breast-fed for at least four months are less likely to develop major behavior problems in childhood. They're also less likely to lie or steal or to be anxious or hyperactive.

For the study - published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood - scientists from the Universities of Oxford, Essex, York and University College London used questionnaires to collect data on more than 10,000 infants born in 2000 and 2001. The researchers found that 16 percent of formula-fed children had developed behavior problems by age five, as compared to six percent of children who had been breast-fed.

What would explain such a big difference? Scientists said one possibility is that breast milk contains fatty acids that aid in brain development, AFP reported. Another possible cause of better behavior may grow out of the strong bond that nursing creates between mother and child.

"We just don't know whether it is because of the constituents in breast milk, or the close interaction with the mum, or whether it is a knock-on effect of reduced illness in breastfed babies," Oxford University's Maria Quigley, told the BBC. "But it does begin to look like we can add fewer behavioral problems as another potential benefit of breastfeeding."

Other benefits of breast-feeding are well established.

In a call to action to support breast-feeding, the U.S. Surgeon General said breast-feeding helps protect children against sudden infant death syndrome and various infections, and that children who are breast-fed are less likely to develop asthma or become obese.

Giving all the benefits that breasts have over the bottle, a woman who chose to bottle-feed would have to be a real boob, right?

Breast-feeding expert Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said "We must not send a negative message to mothers that they have failed, or make them feel guilty because they bottle-feed their babies."

But moms who bottle-feed may get the message in another way - via their kids' bratty behavior.