Intelligence tends to be far higher in teenage children who were breastfed as babies, says Britain's most comprehensive study of breastfeeding to date.

Researchers at Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) made their conclusions after "pairing up" children in Bristol. The children of 14,000 mothers were identical in all major respects, such as maternal IQ and family circumstances, except for the fact some were bottle fed and others were breast fed for at least the first week of their lives.

The researchers found that the children who were breastfed consistently outperformed their formula-fed peers at ages five, seven, 11 and 14 in tests of reading, writing and mathematics.

Maria Iacovou, a research fellow at the ISER, said breastfed babies has IQs that were on average between three and five points higher. She said the report was "more evidence that breastfeeding is good for your baby", but denied that she wanted mothers who can't, or choose not to, breastfeed feel guilty.

"It really, really wasn't my intention to make any mother feel guilty, " she said. "But we should start focusing more on those women who do want to [breastfeed] and try to help them pull it off and make it more normal for everyone."

She said there were two schools of thought on how breastfeeding had an effect: that long-chain fatty acids in breast milk helped the brain develop; and that the act of breastfeeding improved the mother-child bond.

Posted by Penny Hosie on 13.3.11
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