Breastfeeding Boosts IQ of Newborns

Children who are breastfed exclusively for the first three months of life score higher on IQ tests at the age of six than other children, according to a study conducted by researchers from McGill University in Canada and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"Long-term, exclusive breastfeeding appears to improve children's cognitive development," lead researcher Michael Kramer said.

The researchers examined approximately 14,000 children born in hospitals in Belarus. Because breastfeeding often takes place more often among people of more affluent backgrounds, prior studies have struggled to separate the effects of wealth from that of breastfeeding specifically. The researchers picked many of the hospitals in the current study because they run programs designed to increase breastfeeding among women of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

They found that children who were breastfed exclusively for the first three months of life had IQ scores an average of 5.9 points higher, when tested at the age of six, than children who had not been exclusively breastfed. Children in the breastfeeding group were also rated higher by their teachers in both academic reading and writing ability.

"This research certainly increases the evidence about the impact of breastfeeding," said Rosie Dodds of the U.K.'s National Childbirth Trust. "And I think what we now need is more effort put into supporting it."

While the British government recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, only one in four mothers do so.

The researchers noted that they were unable to determine, however, whether it was some ingredient or ingredients of the breast milk that led to the improved cognitive development observed, or if the benefit instead came from the increased closeness between mother and infant that arises from breastfeeding.

"It remains unclear whether the observed cognitive benefits of breastfeeding are due to some constituents of breast milk or are related to the physical and social interactions inherent in breastfeeding," Kramer said. (naturalnews, 10.13.2008, David Gutierrez)

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