Breastfeeding May Increase Child Intelligence: Study

Benefits of Breastfeeding include increased child intelligence, displayed through verbal skills and knowledge of spatial relationships

Newborns who are breastfed for six months or longer show measurable increases in intelligence, according to the findings of a new study that adds to a growing body of research that highlights the importance of breastfeeding over infant formula.

University of Oxford researchers say they’ve found evidence that breastfeeding appears to increase a child’s verbal skills and ability to determine spatial relations, giving them a boost in intelligence at least until their teens. Their findings were published on May 25 in the science journal PLoS One.

Numerous studies throughout the years have extolled the virtues of breastfeeding, which has been found to deliver the necessary nutrients a newborn needs to thrive, provides some key immunities already developed by the mother, and helps the infant’s digestive tract develop.

This study comes at a time of growing concern over the use of cow’s milk-based infant formula, which studies have shown do not confer the same benefits as breastfeeding and may increase the risk that premature infants develope necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); a devastating disease that occurs when the intestines are invaded by bacteria that destroys the bowels, often resulting in the need for emergency surgery. NEC frequently results in severe, life-long injuries or death.

As a result, health experts now widely recommend breast milk over formula whenever possible, and a growing number of Similac lawsuits and Enfamil lawsuits are now being pursued by families of babies who developed NEC, alleging that the infant formula manufacturers have failed to adequately warn about the risk for decades.

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Premature infants fed Similac or Enfamil cow's milk formula faced increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or wrongful death.


In this latest study, researchers used data on 7,855 single births from 2000 to 2002, which were gleaned from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, and followed up with those children up to 14 years of age. Researchers assessed the children’s cognitive abilities at ages 5,7, 11 and 14, comparing breastfeeding duration with testing results.

Researchers found that about 33.9% of the children were never breastfed and 23% were breastfed for six months or longer. They also found children who were breastfed were less likely to have mothers who smoked, who were married, and who were older when they gave birth.

According to the findings, longer breastfeeding for six months was associated with higher cognitive scores at all ages. Researchers still saw a 26% cognitive score increase at ages 7, 11 and 14 when the children were breastfed for at least a year when they factored in the child’s socioeconomic position (SEP).

“The association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores persist after adjusting for SEP and maternal cognitive ability, however the effect was modest,” the researchers concluded.


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