Low birth weight infants who are breast-fed or given breast milk in a bottle appear to have slightly higher IQs at ages 7 and 8 compared with similar children who are not given breast milk, a new study suggests.
New Zealand researchers tested the IQs of 413 children ages 7 and 8 who at weighed less than 3.3 pounds (1500 grams) at birth. About 73% of the infants had been given expressed breast milk and 37% breast-fed for four months or longer.
The longer the duration of breastfeeding the greater impact on IQ scores, the researchers report. Those children fed breast milk for 8 months or longer had verbal IQ scores 6 points higher than those who did not receive breast milk.
Despite the positive findings, this type of study cannot conclusively determine that breast milk alone was responsible for the IQ difference. But this and other studies add to growing research evidence supporting a positive association between breast milk exposure and enhanced IQ.
Health experts overwhelmingly agree that breast milk is the best nutrition source for babies. Experts recommend that women exclusively breast feed for the first 4 to 6 months and continue breast feeding up to a year of age, if possible.
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