Health

Breastfed babies score higher on cognitive tests at age 10, study finds


Breastfeeding can boost your child’s IQ: Babies who consume breast milk for even just a few months score higher on cognitive tests at age 10, study finds

  • Scientists reviewed test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-olds
  • Children who were breastfed for at least 12 months scored the highest
  • But children who were breastfed at all scored higher than those who were not 
  • Previous research has found key nutrients in breast milk that contribute to healthy brain development 

Babies who are breastfed for even just a few months from birth tend to score higher on neurocognitive tests at age 10, a new study has revealed.

Researchers in the US gave cognitive tests to nine and ten-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed, and compared their results to scores of children who were not.

The findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact on children, although the longer the children were breastfed, the higher their score.

Dr Daniel Adan Lopez, first author of the study, said: ‘Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed.’

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Babies who are breastfed for even just a few months from birth tend to score higher on neurocognitive tests at age 10, a new study has revealed (stock image)

Babies who are breastfed for even just a few months from birth tend to score higher on neurocognitive tests at age 10, a new study has revealed (stock image)

What is the NHS advice for breastfeeding mothers?

The NHS guidance for getting your baby to latch onto your breast is as follows:  

  • Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple.
  • Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide with their tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip.
  • Bring your baby on to your breast.
  • Your baby will tilt their head back and come to your breast chin first. 
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Remember to support your baby’s neck but not hold the back of their head. 

They should then be able to take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.

In the study, researchers from the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Centre analysed thousands of cognitive tests to determine whether children’s scores could be linked to whether or not they were breastfed.

Dr Lopez said: ‘Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months. That’s what’s exciting about these results.’

The team reviewed test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the US.

‘The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months,’ Dr Lopez said.

‘The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the one to six month-old scores dips a little more.

‘But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn’t breastfeed at all.’

While the researchers did not look at the reason for the link, they point to previous research that has found key nutrients in breast milk that contribute to health brain development.

In their study, published in Frontiers of Public Health, the researchers explained: ‘Previous research on nutrients in breast milk and postnatal cognitive development has focused on the role of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

‘DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is produced by the mother and transferred to the fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

While the researchers did not look at the reason for the link, they point to previous research that has found key nutrients in breast milk that contribute to health brain development (stock image)

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While the researchers did not look at the reason for the link, they point to previous research that has found key nutrients in breast milk that contribute to health brain development (stock image)

‘After birth, breast milk is the primary source of DHA for infants. DHA is directly implicated in the myelination of brain frontal lobes throughout childhood and adolescence.’

Based on the findings, the researchers are encouraging families to consider breastfeeding as an option if possible.

Dr Hayley Martin, co-author of the study, added: ‘There’s already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. 

‘This study’s findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made. 

‘It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. 

‘It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding.’

BREASTFEEDING REDUCES THE RISK OF ENDOMETRIOSIS 

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of endometriosis by up to 40 percent and of ovarian cancer by up to 91 percent, according to recent studies.

Naturally feeding for a total of three or more years across a women’s life reduces her risk of developing the painful gynecological disorder by nearly 40 percent, a study found.

For every three additional months a woman breastfeeds per pregnancy, her risk of getting endometriosis is lowered by eight per cent, while exclusively feeding naturally decreases the chance of a diagnosis by 14 percent, the research added.

This is thought to be due to hormonal changes that occur during breastfeeding as women temporarily stop having periods.

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Natural feeding also alters the release of certain hormones, such as oxytocin and estrogen, which may determine a woman’s risk of the disorder.

Endometriosis occurs when tissue from the womb lining occurs elsewhere in the body. It affects approximately 10 percent of women in the US and commonly causes pelvic pain, discomfort during sex and heavy periods.

Breastfeeding was also tied to risk reductions of up to 91 percent for ovarian cancer, according to another study.

Similar to its effects on endometriosis, scientists believe that breastfeeding helps to prevent cancer by delaying ovulation, during which cell mutations can lead to cancer.





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