Breast milk affect children’s intelligence

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Recent research had revealed that breastfeeding is associated with child’s intelligence. In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics,  children who are breastfed longer recorded higher scores on tests of language and intelligence when they were aged three and seven years old.

Researchers found that with each additional month of breastfeeding, children performed better during the test, not a test of motor skills and memory.

“I think it can help women who are trying to make decisions about how long to breastfeed. Because there are many factors considered in the decision,” said lead researcher from Children’s Hospital Boston, Dr. Mandy Belfort as reported by Reuters news agency.

Belfort said that her study supports the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups to provide exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age, followed by a mixture of breast milk and solid foods.

In this study, Belfort and her colleagues analyzed 1,312 pregnant women from Massachusetts between the year 1999 to 2012, along with their babies. These women reported whether they had ever breastfed and at what age they stopped breastfeeding their child. After that, researchers gave standardized intelligence tests to these women and their children.

In the language test for age three, the children scored an average score of 103.7. However, when the intelligence level of the mother and other family factors including income taken into account, the researchers found that each additional month of breastfeeding is associated with an increase of 0.21 points on the exam.

Meanwhile, the children who are only fed breast milk for six months, scored an average of three points higher on language tests than those who never breast-fed.

The average intelligence test scores, such as reading and writing that are given to children aged seven years was 112.5. However, each additional month of breastfeeding is associated with an increase up to 0.35 points.

These tests take up to 10-20 minutes to complete and 100 is considered as average values ??in all children. However, Belfort says that parents and teachers may not notice the difference that is only a few points on children’s intelligence tests. “I think the most important thing is more at the level of the whole populations or communities,” she said.

Previously, breastfeeding was associated with a lower risk of eczema, ear and stomach infections in children. Past studies have also found an association between breast-feeding to the child’s intelligence. However, the study did not calculate the difference between the women who are not breastfeeding.

The researcher explained that recent research is a step further by calculating a woman’s own intelligence and other aspects of the home environment of children.

“The difficulty in each study is how the intellectual capacity of parents and whether it could make a difference?” said breast milk researcher from the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, Dr. Ruth Lawrence.

Lawrence who was not involved in the new study said, basically breast milk contains components that may be important for brain development, such as amino acids, Omega-3 fatty acids, and cholesterol.

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