Breastfed babies grow up more intelligent and earn more money
A new survey has concluded that breastfed babies grow up to be more intelligent and earn more money in their working lives.
New mothers are always encouraged to breastfeed their little ones as their milk is said to be important for a young child to fight off illness in their first few days, but now it seems it can also have a more lasting effect.
Researchers analysed breastfeeding data on almost 3,500 babies who were given IQ tests when they reached the age of 30 and provided information on educational attainment and income.
Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, suggested his survey offered compelling evidence to suggest breastfeeding had long term benefits.
"Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability," said Dr Horta.
“What is unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly-educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class.”
The survey found that breastfeeding generally led to an increase adult intelligence, length of schooling and adult earnings and interestingly, the longer a child was breastfed, up to a period of one year, the greater the benefits turned out to be.
Someone who had been breastfed for at least a year gained four more IQ points, on average, at the age of 30 than a person who had been breastfed for less than a month.
He or she also had 0.9 more years of schooling and earnings that were higher by a third of the average income.
Dr Horta added: “The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on intelligence is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential for brain development.
“Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role.”