Just published in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet Global Health is probably the best long-term study on breastfeeding ever. Nearly 6000 babies and mothers were initially interviewed in 1982 in Pelotas, Brazil, and then again, when the babies had reached an age of 30 years old.The results showed that the children who had been breastfed for more than 12 months had a higher IQ score, a better level of education, and a higher monthly income than children who had not been breastfed or were breastfed for less than one month.
Of the original 5914 babies enrolled into the study in 1982, researchers were able to find and perform IQ testing on 3493 at age 30. These young men and women were also interviewed about their level of education and income.
The actual differences between the children breastfed for at least a year and the non-breastfed children showed that the ones who were breastfed had an IQ four points higher, had attained one more year of schooling, and had a monthly income R$ 341 higher. And in general, the longer a baby had been breastfed, the greater the advantages he or she received.
The researchers felt that, besides the study being so long-term and involved a large number of children, that one of the strengths of this research was that the babies studied came from the entire spectrum of social classes. Children who came from lower classes showed improvements in IQ, schooling, and income, as much as children who came from higher classes.
The reason that breastfeeding gave these benefits likely has to do with the rich nutritional content of breast milk. Breast milk has a high concentration of “long-chain fatty acids” that are essential for brain development. Also, breastfeeding increases psychological and physical bonding between mother and child, providing many advantages.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta, of the Federal University of Pelotas, emphasized, “I don’t want to terrify people who did not breast-feed or who breast-fed for a short time. It isn’t only breast-feeding that affects I.Q. and income. But our study does show that breast-feeding is important and should be encouraged.”
Previous research has shown that breastfed children have other advantages such as: decreased risk of lung, throat, and ear infections; a diminished risk of sudden infant death syndrome; a lower risk of asthma and eczema; and even a lower risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.
The World Health Organization recommends that, if possible for the mother, “Exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond”.
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)