Recent studies carried out have revealed the sweetened truth regarding the benefits of breastfeeding on the improved development of intellectual functions in childhood.
A recent study published by Jagiellonian University Medical College revealed that babies breastfed exclusively for up to 3 months had IQ’s that were 2.1 points higher.
Babies breastfed for 6 months had IQ’s 2.6 points higher, while those breastfed for over 6 months showed an exceptional 3.8 point increase, thus indicating that the longer the baby is breastfed, the higher the IQ tends to be.
These findings are not standalone research. An extensive review carried out previously also indicated that breastfeeding is associated with an improved development of intellectual functions in childhood.
This is based on a wide-ranging research trial on human lactation, in which researchers tested approximately 14,000 children and then followed up on their intellectual development 3 years later.
Results suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed since birth and raised under the standards of the “Baby Friendly Initiative”
had IQ’s that were between 2.9 and 7.5 points higher than children who had not been breastfed.
Interpreting these results, Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, who serves as Executive Committee Director of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign, commented: “On one hand we acknowledge that intelligence is influenced by genetic factors and the environment which babies grow up in. But on the other hand, there is strong statistical evidence to suggest that prolonged breastfeeding enhances intellectual development. In Sharjah we have made people more aware that breastfeeding has numerous physical benefits; however they will now be even more reassured to learn that the benefits extend beyond the physical, to the mental and emotional.”
Additional research conducted on sibling pairs has also confirmed a causative connection between breastfeeding and intellectual development. Experts have provided varying opinions on the specific cause of this increased intellectual development, and Dr Hessa Al Ghazal weighed in on this debate:
“It’s more likely that the higher intelligence is due to a combination of physical and emotional factors - meaning the nutritional properties of the breast milk itself, combined with the emotional bonding between mother and child during breastfeeding. What most people overlook is that anything that affects a mother will most likely affect her baby as well - whether positively or negatively. That’s why we have tirelessly mobilized public places, hospitals and nurseries in Sharjah; transforming them to become more mother-friendly, which in turn will make them more baby-friendly. Mothers should not only view breastfeeding as “meal time”, but also “learning time”, because they are laying the foundations that will help the child perform well in their education, career and beyond.”
These results are viewed as a game-changer as they are likely to change mothers’ mindsets regarding breastfeeding: rather than focus only on the physical benefits of breastfeeding (like greater protection from various diseases), mothers will now look at the mental, emotional, social and ultimately the national benefits of breastfeeding.
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