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Breastfeeding, infant formula supplementation, and Autistic Disorder: the results of a parent survey

Stephen T Schultz125*, Hillary S Klonoff-Cohen1, Deborah L Wingard1, Natacha A Akshoomoff3, Caroline A Macera2, Ming Ji2 and Christopher Bacher4

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, USA

2 Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, USA

3 Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, USA

4 Autism Internet Research Survey, New Jersey, USA

5 Dental Corps, United States Navy, San Diego, USA

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2006, 1:16  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-1-16

Published: 15 September 2006

Abstract

Background

Although Autistic Disorder is associated with several congenital conditions, the cause for most cases is unknown. The present study was undertaken to determine whether breastfeeding or the use of infant formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid is associated with Autistic Disorder. The hypothesis is that breastfeeding and use of infant formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid/arachidonic acid are protective for Autistic Disorder.

Methods

This is a case-control study using data from the Autism Internet Research Survey, an online parental survey conducted from February to April 2005 with results for 861 children with Autistic Disorder and 123 control children. The analyses were performed using logistic regression.

Results

Absence of breastfeeding when compared to breastfeeding for more than six months was significantly associated with an increase in the odds of having autistic disorder when all cases were considered (OR 2.48, 95% CI 1.42, 4.35) and after limiting cases to children with regression in development (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.01, 3.78). Use of infant formula without docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid supplementation versus exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a significant increase in the odds of autistic disorder when all cases were considered (OR 4.41, 95% CI 1.24, 15.7) and after limiting cases to children with regression in development (OR 12.96, 95% CI 1.27, 132).

Conclusion

The results of this preliminary study indicate that children who were not breastfed or were fed infant formula without docosahexaenoic acid/arachidonic acid supplementation were significantly more likely to have autistic disorder.