Breast-feeding longer is associated with better receptive language at age 3 and better verbal and nonverbal intelligence at age 7, according to a study.
Evidence supports the relationship between breast-feeding and health benefits in infancy, but the extent to which breast-feeding leads to better cognitive development is less certain, according to background information for the study, which was published July 29 on the website of JAMA Pediatrics.
Mandy B. Belfort, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues examined the relationships of breast-feeding duration and exclusivity with child cognition at ages 3 and 7. The researchers used assessment tests to measure cognition.
After adjusting for sociodemographics, maternal intelligence and home environment, longer breast-feeding duration was associated with higher scores at age 3 on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and at age 7 on the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, the researchers wrote; each additional month of breast-feeding was associated with a slightly higher number of points on those two tests. However, breast-feeding duration was not associated with scores in the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning test.
“In summary, our results support a causal relationship of breast-feeding in infancy with receptive language at age 3 and with verbal and nonverbal IQ at school age,” the authors wrote. “These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breast-feeding through age 6 months and continuation of breast-feeding through at least age 1.”
In an accompanying editorial, Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute, wrote: “The problem currently is not so much that most women do not initiate breast-feeding, it is that they do not sustain it. In the United States about 70% of women overall initiate breast-feeding, although only 50% of African-American women do. However, by six months, only 35% and 20%, respectively, are still breast-feeding.
“Furthermore, workplaces need to provide opportunities and spaces for mothers to use them. Breast-feeding in public should be destigmatized. Clever social media campaigns and high-quality public service announcements might help with that. Some of these actions may require legislative action either at the federal or state level. Lets allow our childrens cognitive function to be the force that tilts the scale, and lets get on with it.”
Study abstract: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1720224.