A new study has found that breastfeeding for longer durations by the mothers can make their children more intelligent and help in getting greater earnings in their adulthood.
The findings of the study were concluded after closely observing a group of nearly 3,500 newborn babies who were born in Pelotas, Brazil for 30 years.
Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, study lead author and researcher at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said, “Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only raises the IQ-level until at least the age of 30 years but also has a huge impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability.”
For the study, the researchers collected the information on breastfeeding of all the participating babies in their early childhood. The study group took an IQ test of the participants at the average age of 30-year-old. The information regarding income and educational achievement of the participants were also collected by the research group.
Based on the duration of breastfeeding by their mothers when they were infants, the participants were divided into five groups.
The categorization was done on the basis of 10 biological and social variables that were believed to be contributing to the increase in IQ-levels among the subjects. Some of these variables include genomic ancestry, parental schooling, maternal age, child delivery type, maternal smoking during pregnancy, weight of child at the time of birth and family income at birth.
The study showed increased adult intelligence among the participating babies who later had longer schooling, higher adult earnings at all duration levels of breastfeeding.
The longer duration of breastfeeding (for up to 12 months) resulted into greater magnitude of the intelligence and other benefits, the researchers concluded.
Concluding the findings of the study, Horta said, “The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on IQ is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential ingredients for brain development. Our results showed that predominant breastfeeding is positively associated with intelligence in adulthood and also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a significant role.”
The findings of the study were published in The Lancet Global Health journal.