Scientific research has found numerous benefits of breastfeeding for the infant, showing that it provides advantages with regard to general health, growth, and development. But still there is a disagreement whether the breastfeeding directly improves children’s cognitive development. A new detailed study, led by Dr. Mandy Belfort, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, confirms that it does.
„Our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding duration with receptive language and verbal and nonverbal intelligence later in life“ – claim the authors of this longitude study of more than 1 300 mothers and their babies. Their study demonstrates that the longer breastfeeding duration is the impact on the vocabulary and intelligence test scores is greater (each month of breastfeeding boosted a 0.3-point increase in intelligence by age 3 and 0.5-point increase by age 7). Additionally, the results demonstrated that the impact was largest when babies were breastfed exclusively for the first six months, which is a recommendation of all relevant health organizations in the world.
The study as well suggested that maternal diet during lactation has some effects on child cognition: children of the women who consumed 2 or more servings of fish per week had better results on the test that measures the visual motor abilities at age 3.
This study is also significant because the researchers controlled variables like parental intelligence, income, employment and education, which showed not to be of importance for the demonstrated effect of breastfeeding and its duration on children’s cognitive development.
But, often breastfeeding is not easy, especially exclusively and on baby’s demand, in particular for working moms. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Breastfeeding Report Card from 2012. shows that breastfeeding rates are rising continually. But even though that almost 80% of mothers starts breastfeeding, a minority continues (47% breastfeed their infants through 6 months of age and only 25% through 12 months of age), and merely 16% of children are being breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Additionally, rates are significantly lower for African-American infants. Based on these statistics one can conclude that the majority of mothers want to breastfeed their babies, but have difficulties to maintain that practice. The need for support on various levels is obvious.
The Secretary of United States Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, recognized it and she calls to action: “More and more mothers are breastfeeding every year… every mother in our nation deserves information, guidance, and support with this decision from her family and friends, the community where she lives, the health professionals on whom she relies, and her employer.”
Written By: Milica Zujko