In May 2008, a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry involving nearly 14,000 children finds that 6 year olds whose mothers were encouraged to breast-feed have a 7.5 higher IQ increase. The study also suggests that the longer a baby is breast-fed, the greater is the baby’s potential for having a higher IQ. Lead author Dr. Michael Kramer, a professor of McGill University in Montreal, said that these improvements are modest for individuals, but may be significant for society as a whole.
A study published in The Journal of Human Capital in June 2009 found that an additional month of breastfeeding was associated with an increase in high school grade point averages of 0.019 points and an increase in the probability of college attendance by 0.014, indicating that the cognitive and health benefits of breastfeeding may lead to long-term educational benefits for children. This study compared siblings so that the influence of mothers’ IQ and home environment does not muddle he results.
A more recent study of more than 1,300 moms and their babies, who were breastfed for periods ranging from less than a month to more than a year, found that each month of breastfeeding bolstered a 0.3-point increase in intelligence by age 3 and 0.5-point increase by age 7. The differences held up even when the researchers controlled for parental intelligence, income, employment and education, and the benefit was biggest when babies were breastfed exclusively for the first six months
These studies suggest that babies who are breastfed grow up to be more intelligent than those who are bottle-fed. Also, this difference is seen more clearly on those who are preterm or of low birthweight.
A likely explanation for this effect is that breast milk contains nutrients that are not found in infant formulas. These nutrients, such as long chain fatty acids DHA and ARA, proteins, amino acids including taurine, and enzymes are important for the development of neural tissue. Breast milk is a mixture of nutrients that commercial formula manufacturers find hard to replicate perfectly.
Mike Woolridge, a senior lecturer in infant feeding at the University of Leeds, believes that breast-feeding builds a better, more balanced brain in terms of its chemical composition. This can be measured in terms of brain performance.
Also, one cannot discount the stronger loving bond created between the breastfeeding mother and her child – which many studies suggest has a beneficial effect on the child’s mental development.
Promoting intelligence is just one of the many benefits of breastfeeding. The others are also as important: A breastfed child is more able to fight infections, particularly in the lungs and ears. He is less prone to respiratory diseases and is able to avoid developing allergies.
See this related link on baby’s nutrition.
Still some authors suggest that breast-feeding benefits appear to be overstated, and the benefits related to children’s intelligence are not that significant. Also, at least one study points out that the other studies that seem to prove that breastfeeding improves kids’ IQ suffer from selection bias. For some moms who find breastfeeding stressful and inconvenient, a few points increase in IQ test is not worth the aggravation, and choose instead to spend effort on other ways to jumpstart their kids’ intelligence.
Here are some ideas to stimulate your baby’s brain
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