Every mother wants to have a smart baby, and a new study shows that one of the best ways to have a smarter child is to breastfeed. Researchers have discovered that children that were breastfed for longer periods of time scored higher on IQ tests.
For the study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics medical journal, researchers with the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts measured the IQ of about 1,300 children. Their mothers had agreed to take part in a long term study that was seeking ways to improve the health of children and mothers.
Children were first tested when they were three years old to establish how well they were able to understand language. Mandy Brown Belfort, lead researcher of the study, has said that aptitude was on average, 2.5 percent higher among children that consumed nothing but breast milk for their first year of life, as opposed to babies that were fed formula.
Children were then tested again at the age of seven, for non-verbal and verbal IQ. In this case, the effect of breastfeeding seemed to be a bit stronger. According to Belfort, the study shows that each additional month of breastfeeding made the IQ score increase by almost a third of a point.
Belfort is a neonatologist with Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as a professor of pediatrics with Harvard Medical School. She has said that breastfeeding was not linked to higher scores on one test that measured learning and memory.
Researchers did find that the ability for eyes to guide movements were much better among the three year old children that had been breastfed and their mothers ate two or more servings of fish weekly.
For now, according to Belfort, investigators are only able to wonder why breastfed babies displayed higher IQs. She says that one idea is that there may be nutrients and other things that make up breast milk, which are beneficial to brain development. It may be possible that they haven’t yet been discovered, so they aren’t being added to formula as a standard procedure.
It is also possible that the increase in IQ when it comes to the length of time that a mother breastfeeds has more to do with the bonding and interaction between mother and child that can help to boost overall intelligence in these children.