Is Breastfed Best? How Does Breastfeeding Help My Newborn?
The title above is from a Time article published on March 18, 2015. The article is based on a pre-released April 2015 study published in The Lancet Global Health journal titled, Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil.
The Time article begins by stating, “New research suggests that breastfeeding newborns longer helps enhance brain development. Children that breastfeed for longer periods end up smarter, more educated and wealthier in adulthood…”
This study was conducted over a long period of time. It began in Brazil in 1982, and involved following 3700 babies born in five maternity hospitals in Pelotas, Brazil. Researchers recorded how long these babies were breastfed after birth.
Approximately 30 years later, the researchers followed up on these grown adults to see if there was a difference in life development between those that were breastfed for their first year and their counterparts that were breastfed for shorter periods of time.
The results compared those who breastfed for one year to those who breastfed for a month or less. Those babies who breastfed for one year showed a four points higher IQ level. These individuals also usually attained one year more of education and made 15% higher income at age 30.
Lead author Bernardo Lessa Horta, a professor at Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, offers a possible explanation by saying, “Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role.” He continues, “Breast-feeding not only has short-term benefits, but also breast-feeding has long-term benefits.”
In a March 18, 2015 BBC article on this research, Dr, Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, commented, “It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however, this study emphasizes the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.”
In their conclusion the researchers reported, “Our results suggest that breastfeeding not only improves intelligence up to adulthood, but also has an effect at both the individual and societal level, by increasing educational attainment and earning ability.”
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