From developing a baby’s immune system more quickly, to creating a greater bond between mother and baby, to helping mums get in shape after the birth, the benefits of breastfeeding a baby have long been studied, established and preached.
Amidst the wealth of information regarding the unique advantages breastfeeding brings to both mother and baby, a new benefit of breast milk has been uncovered – that breastfeed babies have higher IQs.
A UK study, which involved more than 10,000 children, found that the ones that were breastfeed for at least the first week of their lives performed significantly better than those babies who were formula fed.
Researchers from the Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) found that children who were breastfed, scored, on average, between three to five points more in an IQ test than their contemporaries that were formula fed.
The children participating in the study were tested at ages five, seven, 11 and 14. Other factors were considered during the research, including the mothers’ IQ and socioeconomic factors, but consistently the only difference within the IQs of the children tested was whether they had been breastfed or formula fed. At each of the different ages, the children who were breastfed continued to outperform those who were bottle fed.
Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Maria Lacovou, one of the researchers at the ISER, commented:
“We would not have been surprised if the effect faded with time, but it didn’t”.
Although this is not the first time the mental abilities of breastfed babies have been analysed. Earlier this year the University of Western Australia’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research published the results in the health journal ‘Pediatrics’ of a study based on the intellectual abilities of more than 2900 children.
The research found that the children who were breastfed for six months performed significantly better in reading, spelling and maths compared to the children who were fed formula milk but were from the same socioeconomic background.
The World Health Organisation recommends that mother’s breastfeed their babies until they are at least six months old.