NashvilleHealth | For babies, breastfeeding is still best, even if it doesn’t make them smarter (though it might)

For babies, breastfeeding is still best, even if it doesn’t make them smarter (though it might)

By Karen Kaplin

There are lots of reasons why doctors encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies. Compared with babies who get formula, babies who are breastfed are less likely to die as a result of infections, sudden infant death syndrome or any other reason. The longer a mother nurses — and the longer she does so exclusively — the bigger the benefits, studies show.

Another perceived benefit of breastfeeding is the possibility that it boosts a baby’s brain. A clinical trial involving more than 16,000 infants in Belarus who were randomly assigned to get either special support for breastfeeding (based on a program from the World Health Organization and UNICEF) or a hospital’s usual care found that babies in the first group scored an average of 7.5 points higher on a verbal IQ test and 5.9 points higher on overall IQ. Teachers, apparently, could tell the difference – children whose moms got extra help with breastfeeding got higher marks in school for both reading and writing.

That result is something of an outlier. In an analysis of 17 studies on breastfeeding and IQ, the four that were considered to be of highest quality — each had at least 500 participants and took a mother’s IQ into account, among other things — also found an association between breastfeeding and IQ, though the benefit was only 1.76 points, on average.

The latest data come from a study of about 7,500 Irish children who have been tracked since birth as part of the ongoing Growing Up in Ireland study. The results were published Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

Read the full story on the LA Times.

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