An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests breastmilk can make children smarter.
Breastmilk gives the brain a boost
Previous studies have already linked breastfeeding and brain development, but this study conducted by researchers in Canada and Belarus has gone one step further, finding that children who were breastfed had higher IQs and did better academically. Children whose mums breastfed for longer and who didn't substitute with formula scored even higher results.
Mum's the word
Dr Michael Kramer from McGill University and the Montreal Children's Hospital in Montreal, Canada, says exactly how breastfeeding makes children smarter is still unclear.
"It could be that because breastfeeding takes longer, the mother is interacting more with the baby," he speculates. "[Or] it could be an emotional thing. It could be a physical thing. Or it could be a hormone or something else in the milk that's absorbed by the baby."
The jury's out on that, but what is known for sure is that, according to Dr Kramer, "mothers who breastfeed are different from mothers who don't. They tend to be smarter. They tend to be more invested in their babies. They tend to interact with them more closely".
More milk = better health
Heightened intellect isn't the only advantage of breastmilk. Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding also brings with it a long list of health benefits. These include fewer ear, stomach and intestinal infections, as well as fewer digestive problems, skin diseases and allergies. On top of this there is less risk of your baby developing high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity in later life.
What the experts say …
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and then continuing to breastfeed while you introduce and establish solid foods.