Breastfeeding and the Development of Socio-Emotional Competencies: A Systematic Review

Breastfeed Med. 2019 Dec;14(10):691-704. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2019.0147. Epub 2019 Oct 29.


Aim: To assess the current scientific evidence about the relationship between breastfeeding and the development of infant's socio-emotional competencies. Materials and Methods: A systematic review of literature was conducted through PubMed, LILACS (Literatura Latinoamericana y del Caribe en Ciencias de la Salud), and PsycINFO of population-based cohorts. Records were screened, data extracted, and a quality assessment performed by two authors independently. Results: Thirteen studies were included in the review with six finding a statistically significant association between breastfeeding and the development of socio-emotional competencies such as problem solving, agreeableness, and optimism. In five studies, no statistically significant association was found, and in three, a negative association existed. Regarding quality assessment, four studies had a strong global rating, four had a moderate rating, and five had a weak global rating. Conclusion: Almost half (6/13) of the studies found a positive association between breastfeeding and the development of social-emotional competencies in infants; however, a great heterogeneity was present in the quality of the included studies. There is a need for further and higher quality research into this field of study.

Keywords: breastfeeding; socio-emotional competencies; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Child Development*
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Social Behavior*