Breastfed babies grow up smarter

Scientists in the UK declare babies who are breastfed grow up to be more intelligent and do better throughout primary and secondary school.

The study was conducted by researchers from Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. The study of more than 10,000 children looked at test scores of pupils who were still being breastfed when they were four weeks old and others put on formula milk.
Each breastfed child was compared with a bottle-fed child from a very similar background. The study looked at factors such as parents’ income, jobs and whether they were separated. It found despite very similar upbringings, those who had been breastfed consistently did better in maths, reading and writing at the ages of five, seven, 11 and 14.
Maria Iacovou, a social scientist at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, one of the authors of the study said ‘Breast milk has well-known health benefits and now we can say there are clear benefits for children’s brains as well.’ Her report found that just four weeks on their mothers’ milk can have a ‘significant’ effect on a child’s development.
Despite the findings, Dr Iacovou said, she still supported mothers who decided for whatever reason that breastfeeding wasn’t for them. “It really, really wasn’t my intention to make any mother feel guilty,” “Cleverer children is one thing that people have never pushed before – it’s very easy to make mothers or families feel guilty about the choices they make and that is not in anyone’s interest. We need to engage with mothers but also we need to take a softly-softly approach.” Better support for breastfeeding mothers is what is required.
In the UK, where the study was conducted, only of 3 per cent of womenbreastfeed for the recommended six months. In Australia, although our rates are higher than the UK, they are still lower than ideal targets. The Federal Government is working on rolling out a national breastfeeding strategy in a bid to encourage women to continue feeding for 12 months. In its report, the government claims an impressive 92 per cent of Australian women leave hospital breastfeeding, within one week only 80 per cent are fully breastfeeding and after six months that number has dropped to just 14 per cent.
The government has recognised that increasing the breastfeeding rates in Australia has the potential to improve the health status of Australia’s future population and thus make significant savings to the Government health expenditure. And now, following this latest report, they may also see the value in breastfeeding for Australian children’s mental development.

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