Breastfeeding bumps up babies' IQs
Babies who are breastfed for a longer period of time are more likely to have higher IQs in later life, new research has found.
Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and his team followed around 6,000 newborn babies from all walks of life for 30 years to analyse the long-term effects of breastfeeding, documenting their intake during early childhood.
Participants, now in their early 30s, were also given an IQ test as researchers simultaneously looked into around 3,500 individual's educational achievements and income.
From the results, experts determined that the longer a little one is breastfed - up to 12 months - the more likely they'll be to have longer schooling, higher intelligence levels as an adult and higher earnings in the professional world.
Overall, a tot who was breastfed for at least 12 months, saw its IQ go up by four points and spent a year longer in education.
“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,” Dr Bernardo said.
"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."
It's long been known that breast milk benefits a baby's health, helping them fight off illnesses such as chest infections and stomach bugs. It can even aid in preventing conditions such as asthma and allergies. But as seen above, there are more pluses to this method than originally thought.
Dr Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's Nutrition Committee, describes this study as a "powerful" one, mainly down to its high sample size.
"It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child's outcomes, however this study emphasises the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding," he noted.