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More Breast-Feeding Linked to Improved Cognition in Kids

Data comes from Belarussian study, the largest randomized trial conducted in human lactation

THURSDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Prolonged breast-feeding appears to improve children's cognitive development, as measured by IQ scores and teacher ratings at the age of 6, researchers report in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Michael S. Kramer, M.D., of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 17,046 infants born to women in Belarus who were randomized by cluster either to an intervention that promoted breast-feeding exclusivity and duration, or to the control practice at the maternity hospital or clinic. The experimental intervention led to substantial increases in breast-feeding through the first year of follow-up.

The investigators found that the experimental group scored higher means on all of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence measures at the age of 6.5, including a difference of 7.5 for verbal IQ. Ratings from teachers were higher for reading and writing for children in the experimental group, also measured at 6.5 years of age.

"Our experimental results confirm the cognitive benefits of prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding reported in observational studies. Although breast-feeding initiation rates have increased substantially during the last 30 years, much less progress has been achieved in increasing the exclusivity and duration of breast-feeding. Because protection against infections in developed country settings does not have the life-and-death implications for infant and child health that it does in less-developed settings, cognitive benefits may be among the most important advantages for breast-fed infants in industrialized societies," the authors conclude.

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