Why Breastfeeding Your Baby Longer Could Mean a Higher IQ

Breastfeeding is a difficult task for many mothers but, according to new research, prolonged nursing can help your child reap certain benefits in adulthood.

A study published in the Lancet Global Health journal concluded that a "longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with increased intelligence in adulthood, longer schooling, and higher adult earnings," reports Science Daily.

Researchers followed nearly 3,500 newborns for 30 years and were able to establish that prolonged breastfeeding had a positive long-term effect on the individuals later in life. The most notable increase in good outcomes was connected to babies who had been breastfed for at least 12 months. As adults, they scored four points higher on IQ tests, attended school for a year longer, and made 15 percent more money, according to Time.

"The likely mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of breast milk on intelligence is the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids (DHAs) found in breast milk, which are essential for brain development," said Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta, the study's lead author. "Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role."

All this makes the case that extended breastfeeding can have a good impact on a child's development.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Learn key tips and best positions for breastfeeding, including how to get baby to latch and advice on burping.

Image: Mother breastfeeding via Shutterstock

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