Although Oddy and colleagues controlled for variables such as socioeconomic status, maternal education and early cognitive stimulation for babies such as being read to, they did not account for parental intelligence, parenting style or other factors that can influence breastfeeding duration, such as maternity leave and other social support systems.
"While breastfeeding can be an important part of your tool kit to attempt to ensure health and wellbeing of your child, there are so many other pieces of the tool kit," said Dr. Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the Healthy Steps Program at Montefiore. A healthy pregnancy, a strong parent-child relationship and a stimulating environment are among other important tools, Briggs said.
Briggs thinks the study gives women one more reason to breastfeed if they can, but stressed that several factors contribute to how children learn and grow in the hands of their parents.
President of the New York Lactation Consultant Association, Susan Burger, PhD, hopes the increasing evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding will translate into more support for new moms, many of whom struggle with learning to breastfeed and keeping it up after returning to work.
"I think it's great that there's another one of these studies," said Burger. "But all the studies in the world aren't going to help if women can't get support."