Study Ties Breast Feeding Duration to Higher IQ in Children

First Posted: Jul 30, 2013 09:28 AM EDT

A latest finding supports the relationship between breastfeeding and good health in infants. The longer you breastfeed the better it is for the baby's intelligence in the long term.

According to the latest finding, longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with better receptive language at age 3 years and an enhanced verbal and non verbal intelligence at 7 years.

Several studies have highlighted the association between breastfeeding and the health benefits attached to it. But there are no conclusive results about the   relationship between breastfeeding and enhanced cognitive skills.

In the current study led by Dr. Mandy B. Belfort of Boston Children's Hospital and her team, they examined the association between breastfeeding duration and child cognition at the age of 3 and 7 years. Apart from this, they also wanted to check the extent to which fish intake by the mother during lactation affected associations of infant feeding and later cognition.

To proceed with the finding, the researchers analyzed 1,300 mothers who were part of a study known as Project Viva- a study on factors related to pregnancy and childbirth. The researchers gathered information on whether the mothers breastfed their babies or the child was fed formula. Apart from this, they also collected data on the age of weaning.

On analyzing the data, the researchers noticed that every additional month that the child was breastfed, the scores on a picture vocabulary test at age 3 increased. Other tests that looked into the motor skills, drawing skills and visual spatial abilities had no association with duration of breastfeeding, reports LiveScience.

They also noticed a higher intelligence at the age of seven on the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test. Kids of those mothers who consumed fish during breastfeeding showed an enhanced performance at three years of age on the Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities test.

Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., of the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, states that the test showed that at the age of 7 the IQ benefits kid received from breastfeeding were 0.35 points per month on the verbal scale and 0.29 points per month on the nonverbal scale. In short, a kid's IQ will increase by four points if he is fed for the first year of life. Currently, in the United Stated, nearly 70 percent of women breastfeed and just 50 percent of the African American women do so. After six months 35 -20 percent continue breastfeeding.

A recent study conducted showed that breastfed babies were more likely to have higher social status and were less liable to have downward mobility and their cognitive skills were higher and stress levels lower.  

"In summary, 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," the authors state.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics

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