Researchers have found the longer babies are breastfed, the better they perform on standardized assessment tests as adolescents, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Photo courtesy of HealthDay
June 6 (UPI) -- New research shows babies who breastfeed longer could see better test scores years later as adolescents.
The study, published Monday in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, followed 5,000 British children from infancy in the early 2000s through high school. It found the longer children were breastfed, the better they performed on standardized assessment tests, according to Dr. Reneé Pereyra-Elías, a researcher at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.
"What the study team found was that there was a modest improvement in test scores associated with being breastfed longer," Pereyra-Elías said.
"Longer breastfeeding was associated with better educational outcomes at age 16," the study confirmed.
Researchers divided the children, born between 2000 and 2002, into groups based on how long they were breastfed. Some were not breastfed, others were breastfed for a few months and others were breastfed for a year or more. They also adjusted for socioeconomic differences and maternal cognitive ability.
Researchers took the early breastfeeding information and compared each group with its test scores on the UK's General Certificate of Secondary Education testing during secondary school.
According to the study, children who were breastfed for more than a year were 39% more likely to score high on both math and English GCSE exams. They were also less likely to fail the English GCSE.
Those who breastfed for at least four months had a two- to three-point higher attainment score than those who were never breastfed. According to the study, the attainment scores increased with each additional month of breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding duration was associated with improved educational outcomes at age 16 among children living in England, after controlling for important confounders," the study said in conclusion. "Breastfeeding should continue to be encouraged when possible, as potential improvements in academic achievement constitute only one of its potential benefits."
Previous studies have touted the health and cognitive benefits of breastfeeding. A study last year showed the benefits of longer breastfeeding and its link to better scores on verbal and spatial relations skills through age 14.
Another study in 2021 found breastfed babies have healthier blood pressure as children. And researchers last year found breastfeeding is good for the mother and could boost heart health for years.
While breastfeeding is encouraged, it does not mean that every family must breastfeed their child.
"It isn't possible for every family to breastfeed, and those who don't should not be shamed or feel guilty that they might be putting their children at a disadvantage," Pereyra-Elías said.