Experts have long been informing new mums about the benefits of breastfeeding. But while it’s true to say it can help improve mama/baby bonding and boost a bubba’s immunity, it turns out one of the previous perceived pros of breast over bottle feeding isn’t actually a benefit at all.
New research published in the journal Pediatrics has revealed that babies who were breastfed have the same cognitive development at five years old as their bottle-fed peers.
The behaviour, vocabulary level and cognitive ability of 7,478 children was measured at age three and five and analysed in relation to whether or not they had been breastfed.
But while the study linked breastfeeding with improved problem solving and reduced hyperactivity in children aged three, it made no difference by the time they turned five.
No evidence was found that breastfeeding affected vocabulary and other abilities at either age.
It was previously thought, and indeed some other studies seemed to confirm, that breastfed children scored better on intelligence tests than those who were fed formula as children, but this new research throws doubt over that.
One of the study author’s Lisa-Christine Girard, from University College Dublin, told The Independent that previous research showing the long-term benefits of breastfeeding may have been affected by socio-economic factors such as the mother’s education and income.
“There’s a certain profile of mothers in developed countries who engage in breastfeeding behaviour,” Dr Girard told the publication. “So it’s important to tease that apart and understand the direct link, if there is one.”
She went on to explain that mums who were more highly educated, better off financially and who were less likely to engage in risky behaviours such as smoking while pregnant, which can impact a child’s development, were statistically more likely to breastfeed.
But according to Dr Girard once the data was randomised, no significant differences were found between children who were breastfed and those that weren’t in terms of their cognitive ability and language.
“We did find direct effect of breastfeeding on a reduction in hyperactive behaviours when the children were three years old,” she continued.
“This wasn’t found at five years, suggesting there may be other factors that are more influential as children develop.”
The news comes as it was revealed that the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. New research revealed that though almost three-quarters (73%) of women in England start breastfeeding after giving birth, less that half (44%) are still doing so two months later.
The survey commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) found that mums’ fears about breastfeeding included that it could be painful (74%), prevent them taking medication (71%) and be embarrassing in front of strangers (63%).
In order to counteract some of these worries about breastfeeding and to try and encourage mums to nurse for longer Start4Life has now launched a BreastFeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot to provide support to new mums.
The bot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user and help dispel any myths or confusion mums might have.
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