A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2023 | Number 1, Volume 37

Breastfeeding does not impact severity of ASD

The severity of symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not influenced by whether or not mothers breastfeed or by the length of breastfeeding, according to a new study. 

Marianne Peries and colleagues collected data on 243 children who were part of the ELENA study, a long-term study investigating the developmental trajectories of children with ASD. They note, “The frequency of the initiation of breastfeeding was comparable to that of the general population and the rate of children still being breastfed at six months of age was higher.”

 Using multiple assessments, the researchers measured the clinical severity of ASD symptoms for each child. They report, “Our results did not indicate a contribution of initiation or duration of breastfeeding to the prevention of clinical severity of ASD.” In addition, they say, “The evidence of a positive association between breastfeeding duration and IQ in the general population was not found in our sample of children with ASD.” 

They conclude that although there is some evidence from previous studies that longer duration of breastfeeding and/or predominant breastfeeding are significantly associated with lower odds of a child developing ASD, “our results do not support a protective role against greater clinical severity in ASD.” 

The researchers note, however, that their study was fairly small, and that the children they studied—who were selected from the full ELENA cohort because their parents had provided complete information on their breastfeeding history—had higher IQs and levels of adaptive skills than other partici- pants in the ELENA cohort, which may limit the generalizability of their results.


“Breastfeeding is not a risk factor for clinical severity in autism spectrum disorder in children from the ELENA cohort,” Marianne Peries, Fanny Duhr, Marie-Christine Picot, Barbara Heude, Jonathan Y. Bernard, and Amaria Baghdadli, Nature Scientific Reports, January 2023 (free online). Address: Amaria Baghdadli, [email protected]