Breastfeeding has long been known to protect your baby from a host of illnesses including stomach viruses, respiratory illnesses, and ear infections. It’s also been linked to a higher IQ. But this is the first study of its kind to link breastfeeding to success later on in life. And since that success was found over a wide swath of socioeconomic classes, it doesn’t matter how wealthy of a family that you came from in the first place.
Researchers, publishing in Lancet Global Health journal, followed nearly 6,000 Brazilian babies for the first 30 years of their lives. At the end of the study, 3,500 participants have been tested for IQ and asked various questions about education and earnings. When the study was started in 1982, breastfeeding was popular among both the poor and wealthy in Brazil, so it was spread over various social classes, according to The Guardian.
The study found a number of benefits of breastfeeding. Babies who had been breastfed for a year had a four point bump on their IQ scores, they were more highly educated, and they earned nearly one-third more than those that had been breastfed for less than a month.
“Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability,” Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, a study author from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil said to The Guardian.
Researchers said that parents who took the time to breastfed their babies were likely more inclined to stimulate their baby’s development in other ways as well. But in the past, researchers have found that breast milk contained amino acids and fat sources that are critical for positive brain development. The study controlled for income at birth, smoking during pregnancy, birth weight, and the type of delivery.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding in the first six months of life followed by combining breast milk with complimentary foods until one year. According to AAP, “Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants.”