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Breastfeeding for Longer 'Improves Child's Intelligence'

Posted by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 2:50 PM
  • 3 Replies

Breastfeeding for longer 'improves child's intelligence'


Researchers have discovered that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the more intelligent their child will become later in life.

A study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has provided evidence that breastfeeding in infancy leads to better cognitive development later in life, but it depends upon how long the infant is breastfed.

Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital say previous work has suggested that breast milk can boost an infant's brain as it contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which helps cognitive development. They add that fish intake during lactation is a good source of DHA.

The study authors say: "Nutrients in breast milk, such as n-3 fatty acid DHA, may benefit the developing brain. A major determinant of breast milk DHA content is the mother's diet, and fish is a rich source of DHA.

"In pregnancy, greater maternal fish intake (particularly fish low in mercury contamination) is associated with better childhood cognitive outcomes, but the extent to which maternal fish intake during lactation accounts for the relationship between breastfeeding and cognition has not been reported."

Mental performance tested at 3-7 years of age

The researchers analyzed 1,312 mothers and children to see the relationship between breastfeeding duration and child cognition at ages 3 and 7 years.

An infant breastfeeding
Authors recommend breastfeeding until at least 12 months, and certainly past 6 months

Children were measured on whether they were breastfed milk only, received mixed feeds, weaned or were never breastfed. For 1,224 of the participants at age 3, the mean duration of any breastfeeding, including mixed feeds, was 6.4 months. The mean duration for breastfeeding only was 2.4 months.

Fish intake by mothers during lactation was also analyzed to see how this would affect associations of infant feeding and later cognition.

A series of cognitive tests were carried out, including:

  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age 3
  • Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities at age 3 and 7
  • Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test and Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning at age 7

The results showed that longer breastfeeding duration was linked with higher test scores in the Peabody Picture Vocabulary test at age 3, and higher intelligence on the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test at age 7.

However, results showed that longer breastfeeding duration was not linked to any improvement in the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning scores.

Children whose mothers had high fish intake during lactation (greater than or equal to 2 servings per week) had stronger results in the Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities at age 3, compared with children of women who had lower fish intake (less that 2 servings per week).

The study authors conclude:

"Our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding in infancy with receptive language at age 3 and with verbal and nonverbal IQ at school age.

These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through age 6 months and continuation of breastfeeding through at least age 1 year."

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, of the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, has written an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics to accompany the researchers' study, calling for women to be given better opportunities to breastfeed for longer. Dr. Christakis says:

"Workplaces need to provide opportunities and spaces for mothers to use them.

Breastfeeding in public should be destigmatized. Clever social media campaigns and high-quality public service announcements might help with that."

The problem, Dr. Dimitri Christakis adds, "is not so much that most women do not initiate breastfeeding, it is that they do not sustain it."

He continues: "In the US about 70% of women overall initiate breastfeeding, although only 50% of African American women do. However, by six months, only 35% and 20%, respectively, are still breastfeeding."

Written by Honor Whiteman


Copyright: Medical News Today 
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today

Whiteman, Honor. "Breastfeeding for Longer 'improves Child's Intelligence'" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 30 July 2013. Web. 31 July 2013. 

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by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 2:50 PM
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Replies (1-3):
Azure
by Representative on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:29 PM
I find those end figures so sad. I'm looked at like a freak for nursing my children until they wean themselves. The longest I breastfed one was for three years.
Turtledoves
by Representative on Jul. 31, 2013 at 7:41 PM

I agree, they are sad. Worse, I'm looked at like I"m weird and somethign is wrong because I nurse past a year old. I don't even tell anyone I still night and nap nurse my two year old. I hate that it's like a dirty secret or somthing. It should be something to be proud of!

Quoting Azure:

I find those end figures so sad. I'm looked at like a freak for nursing my children until they wean themselves. The longest I breastfed one was for three years.


expecting boybaby girlpuppy
Babywearing, co-sleeping, exclusively breastfeeding, AP, natural birthing, happily married SAH Mommy to Katherine Isabelle, and mommy to our Angel baby, Elizabeth Rose. Pregnant with our Rainbow Baby Boy and due 12.12.13!

MorningValley
by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Hm...honestly I believe breast is best and all that stuff....but I think intelligence has more to do with parental involvement in the child's life then how much breast milk they got.  

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