Every child deserves to be fed with breastmilk exclusively up to the kid’s 6th month unless and until the situation demands otherwise and there is nothing that can be done to avert it. Colostrum, the first milk that is fed soon after the child is born cannot be equalized with any formula milk for its nutrition content-its nature’s gift to every infant born unto this world. Every person in this world values breastmilk and there are not many who are unaware of its advantages on both, the infant and the mother right from offering protection against a range of diseases to supporting the individual in tackling health issues and improving overall wellness. Research even shows that breastfeeding is linked to a number of benefits including a lower risk of ear infection, asthma, respiratory tract infection, obesity, diabetes mellitus and leukemia. We also have data supporting the fact that breastfeeding has a definite impact on the kid’s cognitive development, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioural problems.
Though we generally define kids as having their father’s traits most of the times it is the mother’s IQ level that’s predictive of the child’s IQ. This brings upon a valid point that the mom’s IQ should be considered while trying to link between breastfeeding, child’s IQ and child’s behavioural outcomes. This is highly necessary as it does bring about stupendous changes in researches. For instance, a study by Der et al. found that while breastfeeding was associated with a 4-point increase in child’s IQ taking the mother’s IQ into consideration reduced this increase by more than 75%. Given here is yet another study that focuses completely on the effects of breastfeeding on the child’s cognitive development and behavioural problems when the mother’s IQ is given priority. The study focused mainly on two points: there is a link between breastfeeding, ADHD and behavioural problems when the child’s IQ and maternal IQ are controlled and there is a definite link between breastfeeding and child’s IQ even after controlling for ADHD and maternal IQ.
Studying the Effects between Breastfeeding & Cognitive Development in South Korea
Children in grade 3 and 4 aged between 8 and 11 years were selected from 13 different schools to participate in the study. Each of the mothers was questioned on the type of feeding practise followed and put into either of the two groups-breastfeeding group when the child was breastfed or mixed fed or non-breastfeeding group when the child was bottle fed. Each of the kids were analysed for the presence of ADHD using a highly structured diagnostic interview and the Korean version of the child behaviour checklist (CBCL) to find out about the behavioural symptoms of the child. The CBCL finally consists of three broadband scores namely internalizing, externalizing and total behavioural problem score with a score of 63 and above defines clinically significant symptoms based on previous studies as well. While the kids were administered the Korean Educational Development Institute’s Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (KEDI-WISC) each of the mothers completed a shorter form of the Korean Wechsler Adult Intelligent Scale (K-WAIS).
The researchers looked out for differences in socio-economic variables between those children who were breastfed and those who weren’t using a series of tests. Also, to find a link between a child’s IQ and behavioural outcomes the prevalence of ADHD was compared to the internalizing, externalizing or overall behavioural problems among children with IQs <100,100-115 and >115. After adjusting for various parameters, logical regression tests were performed using the presence of ADHD and either internalizing, externalizing or overall behavioural problems as the outcome variable to find an association between breastfeeding and the child’s behavioural outcomes (Model 1). Models were adjusted for the child’s IQ (Model 2) and all predictive variables were concurrently entered into the model and adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for breastfeeding was calculated.
The study included a total of 874 participants of which 522 (59.7%) of them were breastfed and 352 (40.3%) were not breastfed during their infancy period. Though there was not much socio-demographic differences between the two groups both, the mother’s and the child’s IQ were significantly higher in the breastfeeding group than in the non-breastfeeding group. Results showed that:
Effect of Breast Milk on Preterm Infants
A group of adolescents who were born preterm were examined in this study since their birth. Those adolescents who received breast milk as infants had an 8.3-point IQ advantage at 7-8 years. Information collected on these subjects in the neonatal unit provided information on the volumes of breast milk consumed which enabled researchers to find the link between the effect of breast milk dose on cognition abilities in these adolescents. IQ level was measured using age-appropriate Wechsler IQ tests and 44 completed the test pertaining to kids and 6 of them completed those pertaining to adults.
Information on cognition were collected during the hospital visit for MRI acquisition. Of the 100 participants involved in the study the IQ scores of all the girls and boys involved did not show significant difference. While breast milk intake showed positive effect on all but most significantly in boys, the effect of breast milk was seen strongly on grey than white matter in the brain. It was also seen that the beneficial effects of breast milk on the child’s IQ could be improved more by promoting the development of white matter. While boys and girls did not differ in mean IQ values, they showed difference in the relationship between IQ and both diet and neural volumes.
But now, we have a latest study on 8,000 babies in Ireland done over a 5-year span assessing the effect of breastfeeding on cognitive abilities in these children that shows a different result. Only full-term babies were involved in the study and were grouped according to how long they were breastfed-31 days, 32-180 days or ≥181 days. All the kids were tested for cognitive abilities that included problem-solving skills, vocabulary at ages 3 and 5 years. The researchers found that those babies who were breastfed showed only a small benefit in hyperactivity at age three while there was no significant benefits witnessed at age five (once the kid starts schooling).
Protective Effect of Breastfeeding with Regard to Children’s Behavioural & Cognitive Problems: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-111
Impact of Breastmilk on IQ, brain Size & White Matter Development: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2939272/
Breastfeeding Doesn’t Boost Children’s Intelligence: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/breastfeeding-doesnt-boost-childrens-intelligence/
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Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz of First Eat Right clinic, is the Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Bangalore. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Pune. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Hyderabad. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Chennai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Mumbai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Delhi. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Kolkata.