Scientists analyzed the results of neurocognitive testing of more than 9 thousand American schoolchildren 9-10 years old and compared them with data on breastfeeding or artificial feeding in infancy received from their mothers.
It turned out that children who were breastfed had higher cognitive abilities compared to peers who ate formula milk. The longer the period of natural feeding was, the stronger this connection was. Thus, in children who were breastfed up to 7-12 months, the results of neurocognitive tests were higher compared to those who were weaned up to 6 months.
This study did not investigate the reasons for this effect, but the authors recalled that breast milk contains very important nutrients for healthy development of the baby’s brain. In particular, these are arachidonic (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA), which are produced in the mother’s body during pregnancy. After the baby is born, breast milk becomes the only source of these substances.
“Our results show that any breastfeeding has a positive effect on cognitive performance, even over time,” the scientists wrote. They noted that the study will continue until the original cohort of children is 19-20 years old.
Previously, Brazilian scientists linked long-term breastfeeding to higher IQs and higher income in adulthood. In a long-term study, they observed nearly 6,000 babies born in the city of Pelotas in 1982, recording the duration of breastfeeding. At the age of about 30, 3493 of them had IQs measured (using the Wechsler Adult Scale). The researchers divided the participants into groups according to the duration of breastfeeding and introduced socially and biologically important variables for the calculations that could affect the level of IQ. For example, the family’s income at the birth of a child, parental education, mother’s smoking, etc. were taken into account.
The study ended in 2015, and it turned out that children who were breastfed had a higher level of intelligence in adulthood, the process of obtaining an education was lengthened, and the salary increased. The longer the child was fed in this way (up to 12 months), the higher these rates were.