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Dublin: 14°C Wednesday 4 August 2021

Babies are smarter if they spend longer in the mother's womb

Babies who weigh more when they’re born do better in school tests, scientists have found.

A NEW STUDY HAS found that babies who are heavier when they are born have an academic edge at school – leading scientists to suggest that foetuses may benefit from a longer stay in the mother’s womb.

The study at Northwestern University in the US found that heavier newborns do better in primary school than infants with lower birth weights.

“A baby who is born healthy doesn’t necessarily have a fully formed brain,” said David Figlio, one of the authors of the study.

“Our study speaks to the idea that longer gestation and accompanying weight gain is good,” he said. “We want to know: what does that mean for public policy?”

The study followed more than 1.3 million children born in the US state of Florida between 1992 and 2002 and studied the relationships between birth weight and the children’s cognitive development.

The average newborn baby weights about 7.6 pounds.

The research, which will be published in the American Economic Review journal, found that babies who weighed more at birth had higher test scores from the US equivalent of third class through to the first years of secondary school.

Even the advantage of attending a school with better results was not enough to compensate for the disadvantage of a lower birth rate, the study found.

The higher birth weight advantage held up across the board for all children, regardless of race, socio-economic status, parents, maternal education, and a host of other factors.

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