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Longer Breast Feeding
Produces Smarter Kids

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who are breast-fed for 6 months or longer may be smarter than their peers who nursed for less than 3 months, study findings suggest.

But the differences in IQ scores were small and should not have a major impact on most children, one of the study's authors told Reuters Health.

Dr. Torstein Vik, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, and colleagues followed 345 Scandinavian children from birth until they turned 5 years old. The children's motor skills and mental development were evaluated at 13 months and 5 years of age.

``Children who had been breast-fed at least 6 months had on average an 8-point higher IQ at age 5 compared to children who had been breast-fed less than 3 months,'' Vik told Reuters Health.

The length of breast-feeding had no effect on a child's motor skills, the researchers report in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The link between breast-feeding and smarter children was still statistically significant after the investigators accounted for several factors including the mother's intelligence, her socioeconomic status and whether she smoked.

``Personally, I think this is explained by biological factors in the breast milk,'' Vik said. The Norwegian researcher noted that infant formula does not contain several essential fatty acids and growth factors that are present in breast milk.

The study ``is a further documentation of the superiority of breast milk,'' according to Vik.

``However, in everyday life this difference in IQ is unlikely to play a practical role,'' Vik said. ``But, like other things we do to improve our own health, if the mother is able to breast-feed for 6 months, it will add to the other positive effects of breast milk.

``On the other hand, mothers who are, or were, not able to breast-feed for as long as 6 months, or not all, may be reassured that if other factors contributing to a good cognitive development are optimal, breast-feeding may play only a minor role,'' Vik noted.

The average IQ in all children, regardless of the length of breast-feeding, was at least 100, which indicates average intelligence.

The researcher pointed out that breast-feeding may play a greater role in the cognitive development of children who are more at risk of diminished development, such as those who are undernourished, were born prematurely or who live in poverty.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood 2001;85:183-188.

Reference Source 89


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