Brazilian Study Shows that Prolonged Breastfeeding Leads to Higher Achievement
Major Study: The Longer Babies Breastfeed, the More They Achieve in Life
After following nearly 6,000 babies from birth for the past three decades, Brazilian researchers have concluded that breastfed babies are more likely to turn into well-educated and higher-earning adults.
“Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability,” said Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.
The study found babies who—as recommended by the World Health Organization—had been breastfed for at least six months received comparable benefits enjoyed by those babies who were fed for longer.
When the study began in 1982, it wasn’t just the affluent and educated mothers who breastfed in Brazil—the practice was evenly distributed across the social classes. This fact frees the study of the major complication of most breastfeeding studies, since the higher achievers at the age of 30 did not come from better-off homes.
The study “…found that all the breastfed babies had greater intelligence, as measured by a standard IQ test, had spent more years in education and had
“Some people say it is not the effect of breastfeeding but it is the mothers who breastfeed who are different in their motivation or their ability to stimulate the kids,” said Dr. Horta, acknowledging the possibility that mothers who breastfed helped their babies’ development in other ways. However, there is evidence from other studies of the nutritional value of mother’s milk, rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for brain growth.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding of babies for the first six months. Dr. Horta said “Mothers should breastfeed for as long as possible,” recognizing that extended breastfeeding is not always possible for women.
“It’s widely known that breastfed babies are better protected against chest and ear infections, are at less risk of sudden infant death and are less likely to become obese, but it’s interesting to see the benefits of breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time not only benefit the baby in the early years, but also translate into increased intelligence and improved earning ability later in life.
“It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however, this study emphasizes the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Furthermore, once mothers have given birth, we must ensure they are properly supported to continue breastfeeding for as long as they are able to.”