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Breastfeeding Promotion Associated With Improved Verbal Intelligence Quotient at Age 6.5 Years

Breastfeeding is known to provide important advantages for infant and child health and development. Some studies have even suggested breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests, but it is an area that needs more review.

Researchers from McGill University and Queen’s University in Canada designed a study to follow breastfed infants for six years and evaluated intelligence levels. The study, published in the May edition of Archives of General Psychiatry , found that children who were breastfed the most were more likely to score higher in verbal intelligence tests.

About the Study

Researchers studied 17,000 mother-infant pairs from 31 different hospitals in the Republic of Belarus. They followed the pairs for over six years. The mother-infants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group had a specific breastfeeding promotion intervention while the other followed usual infant feeding practices.

Of the mothers who received the intervention program, 43% were exclusively breastfeeding at three months, 7.9% were exclusively breastfeeding at six months, and 19.75% were still breastfeeding at 12 months. Of the mothers who followed the usual infant feeding program, only 6.4% were exclusively breastfeeding at three months, 0.6% were exclusively breastfeeding at six months, and 11.4% were still breastfeeding at 12 months.

After 6.5 years, 14,000 children were still participating in the trial and were tested for IQ. The children in the intervention group scored 7.5 points higher on verbal intelligence quotient (IQ). The difference was considered significant. Children from the intervention group also scored slightly higher in performance IQ, full-scale IQ, and teacher ratings for academic performance but these differences between the groups were not significant.

How Does This Affect You?

This study suggests that along with its other many benefits, breastfeeding may play a role in verbal intelligence development. The breastfeeding promotion program also appeared helpful in helping more mothers breastfeed longer compared to mothers in the other group. A similar program in your area may assist you in breastfeeding your baby.

Breastfeeding is a personal decision each new mother will make. Talk to your doctor about options for feeding your new baby.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.aap.org/

  • The National Women’s Health Center

    http://www.womenshealth.gov/

  • Kramer M, Aboud F, Mironova E, et al. Breastfeeding and child cognitive development. Arch Gen Psychiatry.  2008;65(5):578-584.