The health benefits of breastfeeding are well known. But what if we told you it also leads to higher intelligence and bigger pay packets when baby becomes an adult?
Breastfeeding may have long-lasting bonuses that extend well into later life, a new study has found. The researchers say adults who were breastfed as infants tend to have higher IQs, which in turn leads to more education and better earning power at the age of 30.
A Federal University of Pelotas team followed almost 6000 Brazilian families, from various socioeconomic classes, who all had a baby in 1982. When those offspring were 30, almost 3500 provided information about the length of breastfeeding and their IQ, education and income.
In their study, published in The Lancet Global Health, the experts say the public health and economic effects of the connection are exciting. Children breastfed for six to 12 months have an average IQ five points higher than those nursed for less than one month. Breastfed offspring are likely to have had more than an extra year of education and earn a monthly wage about 43 per cent higher than formula-fed kids, reports Quartz.
Researchers took into account the family’s income at the time of the birth, the parents’ education, genes, whether the mum smoked during pregnancy, the mother’s age, the child’s birth weight and the type of delivery. They say the relationship between breastfeeding and higher IQ and pay exists across all socioeconomic groups.
It’s suggested that the power lies in the long-chain fatty acids (DHAs) in breastmilk, which help the brain develop. “Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role,” study author Bernado Lessa Horta writes.
The study is groundbreaking in that it’s the first to show such a long-term connection between breastfeeding and later-in-life outcomes, according to Forbes magazine. But it’s not infallible – Quartz reports it was rare that babies in Brazil were exclusively breastfed at that time, and parents’ recall may not have been perfect given the 30-year research span.
And women who don’t breastfeed should take heart – there are many other factors involved in a child’s intelligence and life success. Among them are parental involvement and quality of education, says Forbes. We’ve previously reported that research has shown sleep and even mum’s morning sickness play a part in helping babies get smarter.