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Breast-Feeding Duration Tied to Educational Outcomes

Duration of six months or longer linked to better educational outcomes for boys at age 10

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Infants who are predominantly breast-fed for six months or longer have better educational outcomes in middle childhood, though it appears these effects are evident in boys only, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in Pediatrics.

Wendy H. Oddy, Ph.D., of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues evaluated a cohort of 2,900 women who were enrolled in the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study at 18 weeks' gestation, with 2,868 live-born children followed prospectively. Data from 1,038 children were linked to standardized mathematics, reading, writing, and spelling scores at approximately 10 years of age.

Compared to 10-year-old children who were breast-fed for less than six months, the investigators found that those who were predominantly breast-fed for six months or longer had higher academic scores. The investigators also found that the effect of breast-feeding on educational outcomes differed based on gender, with boys in particular responsive -- in math, reading, spelling, and writing -- to a longer duration of breast-feeding.

"The positive effect of predominant breast-feeding for six months or longer on academic achievement can be viewed as shifting the mean population score upward, particularly for boys," the authors write. "Our study adds to growing evidence that breast-feeding for at least six months has beneficial effects on optimal child development. Mothers should be encouraged to breast-feed for six months and beyond."

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