Breastfeeding Duration Has Modest Effect on Child’s Cognition

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Associations between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores persist after adjusting for socioeconomic factors and maternal cognitive ability, although the effect is modest.

HealthDay News Associations between breastfeeding duration and cognitive scores persist after adjusting for socioeconomic factors and maternal cognitive ability, although the effect is modest, according to a study published online May 25 in PLOS ONE.

Reneé Pereyra-Elías, M.D., from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues evaluated whether the association between breastfeeding and cognition is explained by socioeconomic position (SEP) and maternal cognition. The analysis included 7,855 singleton births (2000 to 2002) followed to age 14 years.

The researchers found that at all ages, longer breastfeeding durations were associated with higher cognitive scores, even after accounting for the child’s own characteristics. The effect size was halved when adjusting for SEP. The remaining associations were removed at age 5 years when further adjusting for maternal cognitive scores, but not at ages 7, 11, and 14 years (e.g., verbal scores at age 14: breastfed ≥12 months versus never breastfed, 0.26 standard deviations).

“This suggests that the role of breastfeeding on the child’s cognitive scores should not be underestimated,” the authors write. “While a small increase in cognitive outcomes may not be clinically meaningful at the individual level, it has the potential to be influential at the population level.”

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