Breastfed babies become smarter teens
Those who are breastfed as infants may out perform their bottle-fed peers at school.
A number of studies have linked breastfeeding to higher childhood IQ, but questions remain about whether the benefit comes from breast milk, per se. Mothers who choose to breastfeed may be more educated, have higher IQs or provide a generally more stimulating environment for their babies.
To study whether breast milk is associated with higher IQ in children, researchers studied 191 American sibling pairs in which one had been breastfed and one had been formula-fed. The researchers estimated the effect of having been breastfed on high school graduation, high school grades, and college attendance.
Comparing such siblings helps control for hard-to-measure factors, like parents' intelligence and the family environment that may account for the link between breastfeeding and school performance.
It was found that even between siblings, breastfeeding did appear to make a difference. On an average, breastfed siblings had a 12 per cent to 14 per cent higher grade point average in high school, and were somewhat more likely to go to college.
Moreover, the grades tended to inch upward with each additional month of breastfeeding, as did the chances of attending college.
The above results suggest that there are two important pathways through which breastfeeding may affect educational attainment - through improvements in cognitive ability and health.
Researchers speculate that if breastfeeding does boost later intelligence, it is likely related to particular fatty acids found in breast milk that aid brain and nervous system development.
In general, experts recommend that infants ideally be breastfed for at least the first year of life, with breast milk as the sole food for the first six months.
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