Breastfeeding for less than 3 months may affect a child's intelligence

August 21, 2001

Breastfeeding for less than 3 months may affect a child's intellectual development, finds research in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The intellectual and motor skills of 345 randomly selected children were assessed at the ages of 13 months and 5 years. The length of time they were breastfed was recorded. Almost two thirds of them were breastfed for six months or more; 17 per cent were breastfed for less than three months.

Duration of breastfeeding did not affect the development of motor skills at either age. But children breastfed for less than three months were more likely to score below average for mental skills at 13 months and total intelligence at 5 years than children breastfed for six months or more.

The differences persisted even after taking into account factors likely to bias the results, such as mother's age, intelligence, education, and smoking habit.

The authors suggest that factors associated with breastfeeding, such as intimacy, may be important for a child's cognitive development, as well as the nutrients contained in breast milk. But they conclude that breastfeeding for longer benefits a child's cognitive development.

Breastfeeding and cognitive development at age 1 and 5 years 2001; 85; 183-8

BMJ Specialty Journals

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