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 from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology suggest. However, the differences in IQ scores were small and should not have a major impact on most children.
The investigators 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.
The researchers believe that these findings are explained by biological factors in breast milk. The Norwegian researcher noted that infant formula does not contain several essential fatty acids and growth factors that are present in breast milk. However, in everyday life this difference in IQ is unlikely to play a practical role.
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.
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