Research Insight – Breast Feeding May Up IQ for Toddlers and Grade-Schoolers

Infants who had been breast-fed to age 12 months had higher vocabulary scores at 3 years of age and registered higher verbal and nonverbal intelligence scores at 7 years of age compared with nonbreast-fed infants, in a prospective, longitudinal cohort study.

Mandy B. Belfort, MD, MPH, from the Division of Newborn Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues reported their findings in an article published online July 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The current analysis, included 1312 mothers for whom researchers had information regarding their infant's breast-feeding status at 6 months, breast-feeding duration at 12 months, and cognitive measures at ages 3 and 7 years.

The mothers who were excluded were less educated, had lower annual household income, and breast-fed for a shorter duration, according to Dr. Belfort and colleagues.

The study authors argue that the IQ boost is a reason for infants to be exclusively breast-fed for the first months of life.

“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,” Dr. Belfort and colleagues conclude.

“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.”


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