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Research claims kids who are breastfed for a long period are smarter

A team from the University of Oxford analyzed more than 7,000 children.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Children who are breastfed for a long period are smarter than those who are not breastfed, according to a new study.

Researchers found that youngsters who are breastfed for longer performed better in cognitive tests than children who were not breastfed at all.

Mother breastfeeding newborn baby infant at home
A modest association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores was identified. (True Touch Lifestyle/Shutterstock)

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, still held up once their parents’ cognitive skills had been taken into account.

Earlier research found that breastfed babies are cleverer but scientists were unsure whether the link could be explained by breastfeeding or other factors.

For the new study, a team from the University of Oxford analyzed more than 7,000 children born between 2000 and 2002 and followed them up until they were 14.

Information about the duration of any breastfeeding, the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, verbal cognitive scores when kids were aged five, seven, 11 and 14 and spatial cognitive scores at ages five, seven and 11 were all unearthed in the research.

The moms’ socioeconomic characteristics and cognitive skills were also measured using a vocabulary test.

Children who were breastfed for longer did better in both the verbal and spatial cognitive tests than those who were not breastfed.

Once mom's background was taken into account, breastfed kids were still better at the verbal tests but were not better at the spatial ones.

Breastfeeding for a long time was associated with mean cognitive scores 0.08 to 0.26 standard deviations higher than the mean cognitive score of those who never breastfed.

A modest association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores persists after adjusting for socioeconomics and maternal intelligence.

Study author Reneé Pereyra-Elías said: “There is some debate about whether breastfeeding a baby for a longer period of time improves their cognitive development.

“In the UK, women who have more educational qualifications and are more economically advantaged tend to breastfeed for longer.

“In addition, this group tends to score more highly on cognitive tests.

“These differences could explain why babies who breastfeed for longer do better in cognitive assessments.

“However, in our study, we found that even after taking these differences into account, children breastfed for longer scored higher in cognitive measures up to age 14, in comparison to children who were not breastfed.

“This difference may seem small for an individual child but could be important at the population level.”

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