Children who breastfeed beyond the six-month mark are better thinkers than teenagers, study finds

Babies who breastfeed longer are better thinkers than teenagers, research suggests.

A study of more than 7,800 British children looked at those who had their mother’s milk for less than two months, two to four months, four to six months or more than a year.

Researchers found that those who breastfed the longest, above the age of one, did best in vocabulary tests at age 14 compared with children who did not breastfeed.

The study, by experts out Oxford Universitysaid the differences in scores were equivalent to three IQ points.

Meanwhile, children who were breastfed for four to six months performed best in a test of memory, reasoning, and spatial awareness, compared with children who had never breastfed, at the age of seven and 11 years.

Breastfeeding was linked to a ‘modest’ increase in children’s intelligence, even taking into account their mother’s intelligence and her socio-economic circumstances.

The World Health Organization advises mothers to give their baby exclusive for at least six months.

But only about 48 per cent of British and 52 per cent of American mothers give breastfeeding for this length of time.

A study linked breastfeeding to better cognitive scores in children years later (stock image)


Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial, but only breastfeeding your baby for six months offers the most benefit to babies and mothers.

Benefits for newborns include:

  • Reduces their risk of infections, resulting in fewer hospital visits, diarrhea and vomiting, sudden childhood death syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease in adults
  • Reduce rates of respiratory, ear, chest and intestinal infections
  • May reduce the baby’s chances of developing leukemia in children

Benefits for mothers are:

  • Decrease uterine size: after having a baby the uterus will gradually get smaller, but breastfeeding will help to speed it up
  • Bonding with newborns: Breastfeeding can help mothers strengthen bond with their baby
  • Protects health: reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, weak bones, diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Source: NHS

Dr Reneé Pereyra-Elías, who led the study from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said: ‘These results should not worry women who do not have breastfeeding, or were unable to breastfeed. give, because the potential gains in IQ among children who breastfed for several months compared to children who never breastfed would be equivalent to two to three points.

‘However, if many children, on average, increase their IQ by about three points, we could see significant differences.

“That’s why it’s important for women who want to breastfeed to get support for it.”

Breast milk contains polyunsaturated fatty acids and nutrients such as iron that help children develop their brains.

Experts say it also causes children to have fewer infections and illnesses, which may help their intelligence because they have fewer days of school.

Researchers looked at the link between breastfeeding duration and thinking skills in children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, who were recruited as infants between 2000 and 2002 and given cognitive tests of five, seven, 11 and 14.

Among those in the study, about one-third of the children had never been breastfed, but 23 percent had breastfed for at least six months.

The strongest link between breastfeeding and vocabulary skills was seen in 14-year-old children, who were given a list of 20 words, ranging from ‘unique’ to ‘pusillanym’, and asked to select the word with the most similar meaning from a list.

The 14-year-olds who breastfed for at least 12 months had the test result nearly three IQ points higher than teenagers of the same age who had never breastfed.

The comprehension of words from children in simpler tests was also better, compared to children who never breastfed, for seven- and 11-year-olds who received breastfeeding for four months or more.

Duration of breastfeeding was not linked to vocabulary at the age of five.

The researchers set out to ensure that the results were not driven by the intelligence of mothers, assessed with a vocabulary test, and the socio-economic status of children, assessed on the basis of their parents’ occupations and the mother’s level of education.

Children with more educated mothers, and those from richer households, tend to get longer breastfeeding and may also benefit from byles, extra help with homework or trips to zoos, museums and galleries.

But even when this was taken into account, children who breastfed longer did better in cognitive tests.

Children who were breastfed for four to six months, compared to those who had never breastfed, did better at the age of seven in a spatial test in which they were asked to fit colored squares into a shape, and something better at the age of five.

They also made fewer mistakes, 11 years old, when asked to check inside boxes on a computer screen for tokens, and remember which ones they had already checked after they were covered.

These tests, performed only until the age of 11, measure spatial awareness and problem-solving skills.

The study, published in the journal Plos ONEconcludes that longer breastfeeding can stimulate children’s intelligence as little as having a smart mother or coming from a wealthy family and ‘should not be underestimated’.

Children who breastfeed beyond the six-month mark are better thinkers than teenagers, study finds

Source link Children who breastfeed beyond the six-month mark are better thinkers than teenagers, study finds

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