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Longer breastfeeding linked to better development

By now, we’re all well aware that breast is best, whenever possible. And ‘breast’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean actual breastfeeding. When times arise where breastfeeding isn’t possible, taking steps to ensure your new addition has access to breastmilk is the next best thing.

Many studies demonstrate the benefits of breastmilk. However, new research is showing even better benefits. A recent article in The Huffington Post outlined research out of Greece, showing toddlers breastfed for longer than six months scored highest on cognitive, language and motor development tests, versus non-breastfed toddlers.

In the tests, scientists from the University of Crete used data from a long-term study of 540 mothers and their children. Of the 89 percent who were breastfed: Reporting in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers found that any amount of breastfeeding was beneficial to the babies long term development.

Breastfed babies scored higher on cognitive, receptive communication, and fine motor portions of the test than children who were not breastfed. The children who were breastfed for longer than six months scored highest on those same cognitive, receptive and expressive communication and fine motor sections of the testing.

As the article points out, this study alone doesn’t prove breastfeeding equals better development, but as Dr. Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute said, “I think that the evidence is now of sufficient quality that we can close the book on these benefits and focus instead on how do we succeed in promoting breast-feeding because all of the studies, including this one, that have looked at it have found a linear relationship, which is to say that the benefits accrue with each additional month that a child is breastfed.”

One of the biggest obstacles faced by mothers who want to extend their breastfeeding beyond three to four months is returning to work. We’ve written extensively about some of the concerns moms have when re-entering the workforce postpartum, including maintaining work-life balance, mother’s guilt, and the practical issues of what to wear to make it easy if you continue to pump while at the office. Test after test, we’re seeing more and more the clear connection between breastfeeding and healthier children. The more support breastfeeding moms get - in the workforce, and from friends and family - the better it will be in the long run for all of us – babies included!.

  • Better resistance to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children.
  • Reduced risk of contracting a number of diseases during adolescence, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer.
  • And for moms - less chance of developing osteoporosis later in life, help losing weight gained during pregnancy, and a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer in the long run.
  • Thirteen percent were breastfed for less than one month.
  • Fifty-two percent for between one and six months.
  • And 35 percent were breastfed for longer than six months.