News article

Study suggests link between breastfeeding and success later in life

Posted:  Thursday, July 23, 2015

In 1982 a population-based birth cohort study of newborns was launched in Pelotas, Brazil. It’s aim was to assess whether there is a link between breastfeeding duration and subsequent intelligence quotient (IQ), years of schooling and income later in life, in a setting where no strong social patterning of breastfeeding existed.

Close to 6,000 babies enrolled in the study. Of these, the required early feeding information was available for 3493. Aged 30, these individuals were assessed to establish their IQ, educational attainment and income. In the crude and adjusted analyses, the durations of total breastfeeding and predominant breastfeeding (breastfeeding as the main form of nutrition with some other foods) were positively associated with IQ, educational attainment and income.

Participants who were breastfed for 12 months or more had higher IQ scores, more years of education and higher monthly incomes than those who were breastfed for less than 1 month. The results of the mediation analysis suggested that IQ was responsible for 72% of the effect on income. This study suggests that breastfeeding is associated with improved performance in intelligence tests 30 years later, and might have an important effect in real life, by increasing educational attainment and income in adulthood.

Read more in The Lancet article