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Breast-feeding, IQ, and Learning Levels for Children

Breast-feeding, IQ, and Learning Levels for Children

September 3, 2016

The attached research study about breast-feeding premature infants should go a very long way in reinforcing the high value of breast-feeding to children.

The researchers looked at a sample of premature babies and compared the IQ levels of the children who had been fed breast milk during their first weeks in the hospital to the IQ levels for equally premature children who had been fed other versions of milk.

At three years of age, the children who had been fed breast milk averaged seven points higher on their IQ tests.

That study parallels, echoes, and reinforces a famous study published in Lancet magazine two years ago that studied thousands of children for 30 years, and measured several life differences for the children who had been breast-fed compared to the children who had not been breast-fed.

The Lancet study not only showed that the children who were breast-fed — from every group in the study — had higher IQs at age 30; they were also more successful financially.

The breast-fed babies actually made nearly 30 percent more in personal income at age three.

That Lancet study corrected for the economic status of the parents as well as ethnicity and education levels of the parents — and it still showed that the children who had been breast-fed tended to be paid higher wages when they were 30 years old.

The researchers did not expect that result and they could not explain that result.

The amazing research done by Dr. Beatrice Beebe and her team at Columbia University, and the equally impressive and amazing research done by Dr. Patricia Kuhl and her team at the University of Washington, into the impact of nurturing and loving behavior in the first weeks and months of life, do help explain those differences.

The work done at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University and the toxic stress work done by Dr. Ross Thompson at the University of California, Davis, also help us understand those differences.

A wonderful and growing body of new research is teaching us that the first weeks of life and the first three months of life are epigenetically important to each child. There are often very clear differences in brain patterns for children based on their personal experiences in the first three months of life.

The children who are hungry and are fed — and who are stressed and who are comforted — in those first three months of life tend to have different dispositions and different brain linked emotional patterns than the children who are hungry and not fed, and who are stressed and not comforted in those first weeks and months.

The first three months can be hugely important for a child.

Breast-feeding a child in those first weeks and months can both build security levels and improve health for the child.

Breast milk has huge physical and biological benefits, and breast-feeding helps create the context for even bigger emotional and psychological benefits for children.

Direct contact with a baby in that time frame has great value and benefit. Any set of circumstances that has loving parents able to interact directly with each child in those first weeks and months is golden. Each child needs a loving adult interacting with the child in those first weeks and months to have a sense of security and comfort that creates a context for the child’s interactions with the world.

Those loving interactions with adults in those time frames clearly do not need to involve breast milk — but there are some very good reasons why we should encourage nursing for children when and where we can, because the nursing process does make those interactions easier and structures them in ways that our infant’s brains are programmed to appreciate, comprehend, and understand.

All of the various economic differences that create difficulties at various levels for children in their lives can be at least partially set-aside for a few months if low-income mothers are able to breast-feed their child in that time frame.

We need to support mothers having that time to be with their children. We need families to support that time. We clearly need to support parental leave policies that give parents time with their children.

We need to facilitate breast-feeding in work sites and relevant public settings.

When we do that, children will benefit. We will be able to help children be secure and learning ready. We need the best and most secure set of students in our schools, and we need children to be learning ready when they get to school.

Breast-feeding can help us achieve each of those goals.

The book Three Key Years explains the biological processes that happen in the brain of each child in the first three years of life.

That book can be read or downloaded free on this website or it can be purchased for about ten dollars on Amazon.

Chapter eleven of the book The Art of InterGroup Peace, also explains those processes and time frames, and explains why the learning gaps we see in our schools are actually experiential — not ethnic or racial.

This study is a useful reinforcement for all of that work.

Pass this study and this blog along to any person you know who is expecting a child. It might make a difference in the life of that child. There are very few things more wonderful than making a positive difference in the life of a child.