Breastfeeding Is Beneficial For Babies But It May Not Make Them Smarter

Mother breastfeeding baby in living room

One of the joys of motherhood is the beauty of your baby sucking away at your breast. In most parts of the world, mothers don’t believe in baby formula, especially in Africa where a woman is celebrated for raising a healthy baby and one of the most crucial factors owing to their health is breastfeeding. Granted that it’s not always comfortable, with the swelling of milk in your bosom to the point of excruciating pain to the tagging and latching on that you have to endure as your baby suckles away; but it is still considered as the most important element in a child’s development.

Some of the most common benefits of breastfeeding include:

  • Reduction of incidences of pneumonia, colds and other viruses
  • Stronger bones
  • Fewer problems with weight
  • Better healing post-delivery
  • A great opportunity to learn about your baby, among others

However, studies show that while the medical benefits of breastfeeding for newborns for helping them fight off infections and helping pre-term infants get stronger are fairly well established, the long-term impact is much less so. The study, which was published in the Journal Pediatrics, says that breastfeeding has very little impact on long-term cognitive development and behavior of the child. This means that the development of a child is the same at five years old regardless of whether they were breast or bottle fed.

Researchers from the University College Dublin who conducted the study found that children who were breastfed for at least six months had reduced hyperactivity and showed better problem-solving skills than when they were three years old. Some of the factors considered in the study were the behavior, vocabulary level and cognitive ability of about 7,478 children in Ireland, which were measured at age three and five and analyzed in relation to whether or not they had been breastfed.

Other breastfeeding studies have suggested that there are long-term benefits that are associated with breastfeeding, but once socio-economic factors such as education, income and lifestyle factors surrounding especially the mother are accounted for, the differences between children who were breastfed and those who weren’t are insignificant.

This obviously poses the question: do children who are breastfed have better outcomes? The answer is yes.

The other question is: is it the mother’s milk that improves their cognitive function or is it the fact that children who are better educated as they grow up, develop much faster than the others?

The fact, however, remains that breastfeeding is a very important element of the development of a child. It’s the key to nurturing the relationship between a mother and a child and even though studies may show that that sacred bond is not directly linked to the intelligence and development of the child, it should not be discarded.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy. It comes with various physical and socially-related challenges, like the fact that even in this day and age, some people still find the act of a mother breastfeeding her child in public a catastrophe. Still, breastfeeding remains a magical bond between a mother and her baby.

Featured image via Mumentoes.

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