More Evidence That the Breast is Best
The number of mothers who breastfeed their babies has gradually increased in recent decades, as it has become clear that nourishing infants as nature intended makes all kinds of sense. Studies have shown, for example, that breastfed infants have stronger, more robust immune systems than infants raised on substitutes, such as packaged formula. Other studies have suggested that children who breastfeed longer are more likely to do well in school, as breastfeeding sparks rapid brain development. Now a new study suggests breastfeeding is linked to greater child intelligence.
Current guidelines suggest feeding breast milk exclusively for at least the first six months of life, while breastfeeding for up to one year is encouraged. The message is sinking in, too. According to statistics compiled by the United States Centers for Disease Control, breastfeeding is on the rise among all ethnic groups, although African Americans still lag behind whites. Things could be better, though. Statistics also show that by six months, about half of breastfeeding mothers will have thrown in the towel.
Sticking with breastfeeding can be challenging in our fast-paced world, but the evidence suggests it’s well worth the effort. For one thing, exclusive breastfeeding encourages faster postpartum weight loss, and prevents resumption of menstruation, which provides effective natural birth control. And the present study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics, longer breastfeeding is linked to better language skills at three years of age, and higher verbal and nonverbal intelligence scores at seven. “These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through age 6 months and continuation of breastfeeding through at least age 1 year,” the authors concluded.
Belfort MB. Christakis DA. Breastfeeding Duration Appears Associated with Intelligence Later in Life. JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 29, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.470.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Progress in increasing breastfeeding and reducing racial/ethnic differences - United States, 2000-2008 births. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 Feb 8;62(5):77-80.
Oddy WH. Breastfeeding protects against illness and infection in infants and children: a review of the evidence. Breastfeed Rev. 2001 Jul;9(2):11-8.
Tackoen M. [Breast milk: its nutritional composition and functional properties]. Rev Med Brux. 2012 Sep;33(4):309-17