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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Breastfed babies 'more intelligent'
Breastfed baby
Breastfed babies have a higher IQ than those bottle fed, say scientists
Breastfeeding for less than three months after birth may affect a child's intelligence, warn scientists.

Norwegian and Danish researchers looked at 345 children between 13 months and five years old and studied how long they were breastfed.

Breast milk is nature's way of feeding babies. It is absolutely tailor made for humans

Belinda Phipps, NCT
They found those who were breastfed for less than three months were more likely to score below average for mental skills at 13 months and have lower IQ levels at five years, than those who were breastfed for six months or more.

Even taking into account the mother's age, intelligence and education and whether or not she smoked, they found the differences persisted.

Mental development

But the length of time a child was breastfed was not found to affect their co-ordination.

Dr Torstein Vik, of the Department of Community Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim, said: "Our data suggest that a longer duration of breast feeding benefits cognitive development."

He said it was possible it was the intimacy of breast feeding that was important for infant development as well as the contents of human milk, which contains many nutrients vital to development.

Breastfeeding mum
The NCT say babies should receive breast milk into their second year

"It has been suggested that these fatty acids can be an explanation for the beneficial effect of nutrition with human development of the child.

"This may be a plausible biological explanation of the correlation between breastfeeding and mental development."

Paediatrician Dr Harvey Marcovitch said: "What we can say now is it really, genuinely looks as if breastfeeding increases intelligence and the longer you breastfeed the cleverer the child will be, although it is not a huge difference."

Nature's food

Dr Harvey Marcovitch
Dr Harvey Marcovitch is an advocate of breastfeeding
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said the study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, proved what they had long advocated - that 'breast is best'.

"Breast milk is nature's way of feeding babies. It is absolutely tailor made for humans," she said.

She said the study was encouraging because it showed breastfeeding for just six months could have dramatic results and this would prove heartening for women choosing to go back to work after the birth of their child.

Ms Phipps said their advice was that babies' should continue to receive breast milk into their second year.

Women having difficulty breastfeeding or wanting to find out more about it can contact the NCT breastfeeding line daily between 8am-10pm on 0870 444 8708.

The BBC's Karen Allen
"It could be something in the breast milk itself"
Belinda Fipps, National Childbirth Trust
"Women in the UK dont breast feed because they dont have the support"
See also:

16 Mar 01 | Health
Prolonged breast feeding warning
13 May 01 | Health
TV 'deters breast feeding'
08 Feb 01 | Health
Breast milk 'reduces heart risk'
18 May 00 | Medical notes
Breast vs bottle
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