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SmartFood; Study Shows Breastfed Kids Fare Slightly Better in Academics

The legions who advocate that mothers nurse their kids as long as possible have always argued that doing so is better for a child's health. But now a New Zealand study indicates that breastfeeding may also result in improved educational achievement and cognitive ability.
Researchers at the Christchurch School of Medicine, in a report for the January electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics, say that breastfeeding leads to slightly higher IQ scores, better evaluations of reading and math skills by teachers, better performance in standardized tests and better test scores in final secondary school exams. The researchers say the effect is noticed between the ages of 8 and 18, long after children have stopped nursing.
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 write.

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."

Read the next parenting article on switchin breast feed to bottle >>
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