Middle-aged still enjoy brain power benefits of being breastfed as babies

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Eilish O'Regan

You may be middle-aged and feel burned out, but you are still a winner if your mother breastfed you as a baby.

Even at the age of 50, people are still enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding with improved memory, word recall, verbal fluency and the ability to process issues speedily, according to new Irish research.

The link with being breastfed as a baby is stronger for women than men, the team from UCD and Queen's University, Belfast, revealed.

It also found it can help boost a person's earning power.

Household income among 50-year-olds who were breastfed was 11pc higher.

The team looked at a group who were born in 1958 and had been breastfed for a month or more as babies.

Their brain power and economic status was contrasted with contemporaries who were bottle-fed.

"There is a well-established association between breastfeeding and child outcomes, but much less evidence on long-lasting effects on older adults," researchers Dr Mark McGovern and Dr Slawa Rokicki told the Royal College of Physicians seminar.

The seminar was also told, however, that breastfeeding rates on the island of Ireland are currently the lowest in Europe.

In 2015, 58pc of babies in the Republic were breastfed when their mother was discharged from the maternity ward, a study by the Institute of Public Health Ireland revealed.

In Northern Ireland just 46pc of babies were breastfed on discharge.

Most school-age children in Northern Ireland could not identify that breastfeeding was the healthiest way to feed a three-month-old baby.

The study, led by Dr Helen McAvoy, said a culture change in infant feeding was needed on the island as a whole.

Experts say breast milk is perfectly designed for a baby and helps protect the infant from infections and diseases.

Any amount of breast milk has a positive impact and the longer a baby is fed this way, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.