Mums are told 'breastfeeding will make your baby smarter'
MOTHERS have been urged to breastfeed for longer, after new research shows it improves child intelligence and language ability.
A US team of researchers found that greater duration of breastfeeding, even when it was combined with bottle-feeding, led to higher intelligence scores in children at age seven.
The results of these latest findings will surely come as a boost to new mums like Irish model Pippa O'Connor who is breastfeeding baby Ollie, and Kate Middleton, mum to Prince George of Cambridge. Kate bought maternity dresses designed for breastfeeding mothers following the birth.
Ireland still lags behind international rates for breastfeeding, but experts hope that studies such as this will help change the culture.
The new study, of 1,312 mothers and children, showed that seven-year-olds who were breastfed for the first year of life were likely to score higher in verbal IQ tests, when compared with bottle-fed children.
Three-year-olds also benefited, having higher scores in a picture vocabulary language acquisition test the longer they had been breastfed.
The findings of the study led by Dr Mandy Belfort, from Boston Children's Hospital and reported in the journal 'JAMA Pediatrics' showed the longer a child was breastfed the greater the effect and that exclusive breastfeeding had the greatest effect, boosting verbal IQ scores by nearly a point per month.
A number of factors that might have influenced the results, including home environment and mothers' IQ, were accounted for by the researchers.
Jan Cromie, national coordinator of the La Leche League of Ireland, an organisation whose aim is to help mothers to breastfeed, said studies like this one help to normalise breastfeeding.
"In Ireland we still lag behind in terms of breastfeed initiation rates. Breastfeeding isn't seen as the norm here in Ireland. We've been a bottle feeding culture for the last two generations and that takes time to change.
"As more studies come out and as and more mothers talk about it, it becomes more normal – because of course it is normal."
She also said new mums such as Pippa and Kate promoting breastfeeding impacted positively on young women.
"Just the fact they are in the newspapers and they're on the TV, it becomes a talking point and it's bound to make a difference," she said.
Ms Cromie said she recommends for every mum to breastfeed for as long she wants to.
"If they only want to breastfeed for the few days in hospital, that still has tremendous benefits to that baby," she said.
"Obviously in my position I am going to say that the longer a baby is breastfed the better but that's every mum's individual challenge."