Breastfeeding makes children smarter: study

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London, May 6 (UNI) Want your child to be smarter than their peers? Scientifically designed study of breastfeeding conducted concludes breastfeeding raises children's IQs and improves their academic performance.

"Our study provides the strongest evidence to date that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding makes kids smarter," says Prof Michael Kramer at McGill University, lead investigator, who believes the findings will be a boon for efforts "to promote, protect and support breastfeeding." Prof Kramer and his colleagues went to the Republic of Belaurus where they studied what happened to breastfeeding mothers who were randomly assigned to a programme to encourage them to breastfeed exclusively, and for longer.

In the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, Prof Kramer reports the results from following the same group of 14,000 children for 6.5 years.

Half the mothers were exposed to the campaign that encouraged prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding. The remaining half continued their usual maternity hospital and outpatient paediatric care and follow-up.

This allowed the researchers to measure the effect of breastfeeding on the children's cognitive development without the results being biased by differences in factors such as the mother's intelligence or her way of interacting with her baby.

Prof Kramer and his colleagues evaluated the children in 31 Belarusian hospitals and clinics.

The children's cognitive ability was assessed by IQ tests administered by the children's doctors and by their teachers' ratings of their academic performance in reading, writing, mathematics and other subjects.

At age 6.5, the children in the breastfeeding group scored an average of 7.5 points higher on tests measuring verbal intelligence, 2.9 points higher on tests measuring non-verbal intelligence and 5.9 points higher on tests measuring overall intelligence. Teachers also rated these children significantly higher academically than control children in both reading and writing.

"The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and intelligence has long been a popular and hotly debated topic," says Prof Kramer.

UNI XC NC MIR KP1156

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