If you want baby to be intelligent and highly educated and earn in good figures, breastfeed them for longer durations, suggests a new study.
Lead author Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, who followed the research group of almost 3500 newborns for 30 years, said that the study provided 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.
The unique thing was fact that breastfeeding in participants was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class.
Horta and colleagues analysed data from a prospective study of nearly 6000 infants born in Pelotas, Brazil in 1982. Information on breastfeeding was collected in early childhood.
Participants were given an IQ test (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 3rd version) at the average age of 30 years old and information on educational achievement and income was also collected.
While the study showed increased adult intelligence, longer schooling, and higher adult earnings at all duration levels of breastfeeding, the longer a child was breastfed for (up to 12 months), the greater the magnitude of the benefits.
According to Dr Horta, "The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on intelligence is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential for brain development. Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role."
The study is published in The Lancet Global Health journal.