Breast-Feeding May Boost IQ
May 6 -- MONDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children who were breast-fed exclusively for the first three months of life or longer scored nearly six points higher on IQ tests at the age of 6 than children who weren't breast-fed exclusively, a new study has found.
The finding buttresses previous research that has suggested that children and adults who were breast-fed as infants scored better on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive development, such as thinking, learning and memory, the study authors said.
"Long and exclusive breast-feeding makes kids smarter," said lead researcher Dr. Michael S. Kramer, of McGill University and the Montreal Children's Hospital, in Canada.
Why breast-feeding might increase cognitive skills isn't clear, Kramer said. "It could be something in the milk, or it could be the physical contact between the mother and the baby," he said. "It could be the way the mother interacts with the baby during breast-feeding -- there is no way to know."
The one thing Kraemer is sure of is that it has nothing to do with differences between mothers. The women in the new study were all from the eastern European country of Belarus.
The findings are published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
For the study, Kramer's group randomly assigned 7,108 infants in Belarus to exclusive breast-feeding; another 6,781 infants received the usual practice of breast-feeding plus other foods.
When the children were 6.5 years old they were given a standard IQ test. Those children who were exclusively breast-fed scored, on average, 7.5 points higher in verbal intelligence, 2.9 points higher in nonverbal intelligence, and 5.9 points higher in overall intelligence.
In addition, their teachers said the breast-fed children had significantly better academic performance in both reading and writing, compared with children who weren't breast-fed exclusively.
Kramer thinks women should breast-feed exclusively for at least three, and if they can, six months, and try to continue breast-feeding for at least a year.