According to a new study, just six months of breastfeeding can give infants a mental boost that will last for years. Researchers have added this to the growing list of benefits that breastfeeding has for children and mothers.
Researchers from University of Western Australia in Perth followed 2,868 children that were born in the early 90s. The children, now aged 10, were compared for academic performance in several areas, such as math and reading. The researchers found that children who were breastfed for at least 6 months as infants scored higher in these areas than those who were not.
The benefit seemed to be bigger for boys than for girls, despite getting the same amount of breastfeeding. Boys who were breastfed at least 6 months saw improvements in math, reading and spelling as compared to boys who were not. Girls, however, only saw improvements in reading. The researchers believe this may be because boys are more vulnerable than girls as infants. The longer breastfeeding could help them to mature better and catch up with the girls more easily. It may also have to do with the bonding between mothers and sons that occur during breastfeeding.
“A number of studies have revealed that male infants are more reliant than female infants on maternal attention and encouragement for the acquisition of cognitive and language skills,” the authors wrote.
Outside influences were factored for during the study. Issues such as family education, income, and parental involvement were factored out to make the study more even.
Breastmilk contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, a critical component in brain development. It also offers greater immune system protection and guards off against health issues such as asthma and allergies. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least two years, and as long after as mother and child want. – Summer, staff writer
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