Study Finds Breastfeeding Linked to Higher Neurocognitive Testing Scores

Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, which was similar to the findings in this study, according to the authors.

New research has found that children who were breastfed scored higher on neurocognitive tests, according to researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The research team analyzed thousands of cognitive tests taken by 9- and 10-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed and compared those results to scores of children who were not.

“Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months,” said first study author Daniel Adan Lopez, PhD candidate in the Epidemiology program, in the press release. “That's what's exciting about these results. Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed.”

Further, fourth-year medical student and study co-author Hayley Martin, PhD, noted that prior research shows a myriad of benefits that breastfeeding has for mother and child.

“This study’s findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made,” Martin said in the press release. “It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding.”

The study authors evaluated the test results of more than 9000 children who were 9- and 10-years-old and were participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. The results showed variations in the cumulative cognitive test scores among breastfed and non-breastfed children, with evidence showing that the longer a child was breastfed, the higher they scored.

“The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months,” said Lopez in the press release. “The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the 1- to 6-month-old scores dips a little more. But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn’t breastfeed at all.”

Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, which was similar to the findings in this study, according to the authors.

“This supports the foundation of work already being done around lactation and breastfeeding and its impact on a child’s health,” said principal study investigator and lead study author Ed Freedman, PhD, in the press release. “These are findings that would have not been possible without the ABCD Study and the expansive data set it provides.”

REFERENCE

Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores. University of Rochester Medical Center. Published April 26, 2021. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/researchers-find-breastfeeding-linked-to-higher-neurocognitive-testing-scores