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Br J Psychiatry. 1997 Apr;170:334-7.

The Nithsdale Schizophrenia Surveys. 16. Breast-feeding and schizophrenia: preliminary results and hypotheses.

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Department of Clinical Research, Crichton Royal Hospital, Dumfries, Scotland.



Schizophrenia may in some cases be a neurodevelopmental disorder. Breast milk is important to the developing brain. Might a lack of breast milk be an environmental risk factor in schizophrenia?


Mothers of 45 schizophrenic patients in Nithsdale, southwest Scotland, completed a questionnaire about whether or not their offspring had been breast-fed.


The incidence of breast-feeding in patients was 29% and in sibs 38%. Most patients were born in the 1940s and 1950s. The incidence in patients born in these two decades, 33 and 26%, respectively, was significantly lower than in Scottish surveys in 1946 (81%) and 1958 (51%). Those patients who had not been breast-fed had more schizoid and schizotypal personality traits in childhood and a poorer social adjustment than their sibs; breast-fed patients did not differ from their sibs.


Fewer schizophrenic patients than normal were breast-fed. Lack of breast milk may be a risk factor in the neurodevelopmental form of schizophrenia.

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