With the much-publicized formula shortages in the US, the benefits of breastfeeding are once again back in the spotlight.

And a new study published in the journal PLOS One] suggests that mothers who breastfeed have more intelligent children. The findings remained constant even when the researchers took into account the parents’ cognitive abilities.

Earlier research had shown that breastfed babies tend to be more intelligent, but it wasn’t clear whether this was solely due to breastfeeding or whether some other factor or factors were involved.

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Breastfeeding: boost you baby’s IQ

For the new study, a team from the University of Oxford team studied more than 7,000 children born between 2000 and 2002 and followed their development until they were 14.

The researchers considered a number of different factors including information about the duration of any breastfeeding, the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, verbal cognitive scores at ages five, seven, 11, and 14, and spatial cognitive scores at ages five, seven, and 11. The researchers also quantified each mother’s socioeconomic characteristics, as well as her cognitive skills using a vocabulary test.

The results showed that children breastfed for longer did better in both the verbal and spatial cognitive tests than those who were not breastfed. Even when the researchers accounted for each mother’s background, breastfed children continued to show better verbal test scores; they were not better at the spatial tests, however.

Breastfeeding for a long time was linked to a mean cognitive score that was between 0.08 and 0.26 standard deviations higher than the scores of children on formula. The researchers also showed that the modest connection between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores persists after adjusting for socioeconomics and maternal intelligence.

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“There is some debate about whether breastfeeding a baby for a longer period of time improves their cognitive development,” the study authors say in a media release.

“In the U.K., women who have more educational qualifications and are more economically advantaged tend to breastfeed for longer. In addition, this group tends to score more highly on cognitive tests. These differences could explain why babies who breastfeed for longer do better in cognitive assessments.

However, in our study, we found that even after taking these differences into account, children breastfed for longer scored higher in cognitive measures up to age 14, in comparison to children who were not breastfed. This difference may seem small for an individual child but could be important at the population level.”

If this isn’t reason enough to breastfeed your child, you should also consider the effects of one of the principal ingredients of formula: soy.

As we previously reported, infants given soy formula over breastmilk were exposed to the equivalent of 5 birth control pills and had between 13,000-22,000 times more serum estrogen.

A report from the Swiss Bulletin de L’Office Federal de la Santé Publique found that 100 mg isoflavones in soy protein taken by adult women weighing roughly 60kg would provide the estrogenic equivalent of a birth control pill.

If you were to adjust for weight, bioavailability, and quantity, then the daily average consumption for a baby weighing 6kg would be the estrogenic equivalent of roughly 4-5 birth control pills a day!

Male infants experience a testosterone surge in the first few months of life. It is believed that during this period, the infant will begin to express male characteristics after puberty such as in the development of sexual organs and in physical traits like muscular development or deepening of the voice.

A deficiency of these hormones may cause problems with spatial perception and learning difficulties. Additionally, studies have shown that humans need animal fat for optimal neurological health, in spite of pushes to advance plant-based dietsA vegan diet in children has been shown to leave them with stunted height and weaker bones over their meat-eating peers.

The introduction of strong phytoestrogens may disrupt natural hormonal balances and potentially spell long-lasting ramifications.

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