Why Do Breastfed Babies Tend to Be Smarter Than Other Babies?

Previous studies have shown that breastfed babies tend to be more intelligent and perform better when they get to school than children who were not breastfed. The reasons for this have been unclear. But a new study by researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, finds that the parenting skills, and not something in the breast milk, explains a big part of the difference.

The study found that mothers who breastfeed are more likely to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of their children. They also found that women who breastfed their children are more likely to read to them when they are young than mothers who did not breastfeed.

The study found that improvements in sensitivity to emotional cues and time reading to children could add two to three months of brain development in children by the age of four.

fosteThe BYU researchers note that the most at-risk children are also the least likely to receive the optimal parenting in early childhood. Single moms in the labor force, for example, don’t have the same luxuries when it comes to breastfeeding and quality time with the children. And parents with less education don’t necessarily hear about research-based parenting practices. “This is the luxury of the advantaged,” said Renata Forste, a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University and a co-author of the study.

Professor Forste holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

The article, “Breastfeeding, Parenting, and Early Cognitive Development,” has been published in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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