NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Breastfeeding and Child Disability: A Comparison of Siblings from the United States

George Wehby

NBER Working Paper No. 19940
Issued in February 2014
NBER Program(s):   CH   HC   HE

Little is known about whether breastfeeding may prevent disabilities throughout childhood. We evaluate the effects of breastfeeding on child disability using data from the National Survey of Family Growth merged to the National Health Interview Survey for a large nationally representative sample of children aged 1 to 18 years from the U.S. including over 3,000 siblings who are discordant on breastfeeding status/duration. We focus on a mother fixed effect model that compares siblings in order to account for family-level unobservable confounders and employ multiple specifications including a dynamic model that accounts for disability status of the prior child. Breastfeeding the child for a longer duration is associated with a lower risk of child disability, by about 0.2 percentage-points per month of breastfeeding. This effect is only observed on the intensive margin among breastfed children, as any breastfeeding has no effect on the extensive margin. We conclude that very short breastfeeding durations are unlikely to have an effect on reducing disability risk.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19940

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