||The researchers say that
it's true that women who breastfeed tend to be older, better
educated and socially and economically advantaged - and they
don't usually smoke. However, they say that even taking those
factors into consideration, "increasing duration of
breastfeeding was associated with small but significant
increases in scores on standardized tests of ability and
achievement, teacher ratings of classroom performance, and
greater success at high school," the Christchurch researchers
The positive intellectual effect of breastfeeding grows
the longer a child is nursed, according to the researchers. They
also say that even a relatively short period of breastfeeding -
less than 4 months - can have some positive impact on the
measures of academic and intellectual performance. The best
performance among the children studied was by those who were
nursed for 8 months or more.
More than 1,000 children took part in the 18-year study led
by researchers John Harwood and Dr. David Fergusson.
In the first year, detailed information was gathered about the
child's feeding habits. When the kids turned 8, the researchers
began tracking their performance.
This study is yet another in what seems to be a continuing
series of research showing the positive attributes of
breastfeeding, although this one is a pioneering one as far as
intelligence and academic performance is concerned. "The
particular significance of the present findings is that they
show the cognitive benefits that are associated with
breastfeeding are unlikely to be short- lived and appear to
persist until at least young adulthood," the researchers write.
"These findings underwrite the need to encourage breastfeeding
and/or to continue to develop improved infant formulas with
properties more similar to those of human breast milk that may
lead to improved developmental outcomes in children."