The effect was not enormous, but it was there: Researchers found breastfed children were a few months ahead of bottle-fed children
Adding another dimension to the breastfeeding debate, a new study finds that children who were breastfed scored higher on tests of language and reasoning at age five than bottle-fed infants. But the reason behind this is still unclear -- is it physiological or psychological?
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The research team followed almost 12,000 families from the time the children were infants until they were five years old. The team took note of whether the children were born at term (37-42 weeks) or preterm (28-36 weeks), and periodically asked the parents whether they were breast- or bottle-feeding their children. When the kids were five years old, they took tests that measured language skills, reasoning, and spatial abilities.
Overall, the team found that when children who were born at term breastfed for at least four months, they scored higher on cognitive tests. However, when certain variables like maternal education and social class were removed from the equation, the effect shrank. The connection between breastfeeding and cognition at age five was more dramatic for kids who had been born preterm: in these children, even breastfeeding for at least two months had an effect.