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The longer kids are breastfed for, the more they earn when they start working

A major new study of almost 3,500 children has found some interesting results about breastfeeding.

Image: Shutterstock/didesign021

A MAJOR NEW study has found that longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with increased intelligence in adulthood, longer schooling, and higher adult earnings.

The research, published today in The Lancet Global Health journal, followed almost 3,500 newborn babies from the time they were born in 1982 until they were 30.

Researchers collected information about whether they were breastfed as children, and IQ tests were given when the participants reached the age of 30. They were also then asked about their education and income.

The study took into account ten variables which could have contributed to the IQ increase, including family income at birth, the educational level of the parents, whether the mother smoked during pregnancy, and the birthweight of the child.

“The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and child intelligence is well established but whether these effects persist into adulthood is less clear,” said report author Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta.

Our study provides 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.

Dr Horta said that the study was unique in that breastfeeding was evenly distributed by  social class, rather than being skewed towards richer people.

Researchers found that the longer a child was breastfed for (up to 12 months), the greater the magnitude of the benefits.

For example, an infant who had been breastfed for at last a year gained a full four IQ points, had 0.9 years more schooling, and a higher income per month at the age of 30, compared to children breastfed for less than one month.

Dr Horta said that the presence of saturated fatty acids which are found in breast milk and which are essential for brain development is the likely reason underlying the results.

Read: The pressure to breastfeed can be overwhelming and failure can be crippling > 

Read: Claridge’s Hotel ‘didn’t mean to upset’ breastfeeding woman who was told to cover up > 

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