A study published recently in the journal Pediatrics claims that breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life gives children’s academic performance an advantage.
Several other studies have also proven the effects of breastfeedin on later advantage in school. The recent study, though, revealed that boys in particular seemed to be the ones most benefitting from being breastfed during infancy.
The research was conducted by the University of Western Australia in Perth, who studied some 2,868 children born between 1989 to 1992. They then gathered the academic data of the kids once they turned 10. The study reveals that boys, at age 10, who were breastfed for six months or more had signifcantly higher marks in math, reading and spelling than those who were breastfed for less than six months. Girls who were breastfed for six months or more, on the other hand, were discovered to have slightly higher in reading than those who were breastfed for less than six months.
While several studies have already been performed to ascertain the benefits of breastfeeding on babies’ intelligence, it is still yet to be determined whether the benefits of breastfeeding on brain development suggest nutritional or socioeconomic advantages.
Says lead author Dr. Wendy Oddy, a researcher with Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, "The biggest surprise was boys did better than girls if breastfed. Boys develop slower than girls and this may be due to neuro-protective effect of the female hormones (estrodiols) in girls. Breastfeeding may advance maturation in boys so they develop faster than if not breastfed."
The authors of the study also noted that “A number of studies have revealed that male infants are more reliant than female infants on maternal attention and encouragement for the acquisition of cognitive and language skills."
The study just goes to show the additional benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding. Oddy further notes that human milk has “bioactive factors” and essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for the development of the brain and the central nervous system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages mothers to breastfeed for at least two years, and until as long as the mother and child should wish.