We all know that breastfeeding is good for baby, with recent studies finding all kinds of new benefits. However, there has long been a debate about how long an infant should be breastfed for. While many experts agree that the ideal time-frame is around six to eight months, a new study has found that babies who are breastfed for at least twelve months tend to have a higher IQ.
Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta, of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and lead author of the study followed the group of over 3,500 infants for over thirty years. Horta said that the study provided the very first evidence that breastfeeding for a more prolonged period of time increases intelligence until at least thirty years old. The study also found that prolonged breastfeeding had an impact on individual and societal levels by increasing the odds of improving educational attainment and even their earning potential.
The study, published in The Lancet Global Health Journal,\ was conducted by using data from a prospective study of over approximately 6,000 infants born in Pelotas, Brazil in 1982. This data was analyzed. The participants of the study were given an intelligence quotient test at the median age of 30 years old, as well as providing individual information about their educational achievements and income levels. The breastfeeding information was gathered in their early childhood.
The study showed that breastfeeding in participants of the study was not more common in the highly-educated and high-income women, but instead was evenly distributed amongst social classes. Overall, the study found that the longer children were breastfed, up to twelve months, they went to school longer, had higher levels of intelligence and reported higher earnings.
Dr. Horta said, “The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on intelligence is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential for brain development. Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role.”