May 6, 2023 — Breastfeeding in infancy could have an effect on academic test scores later in a child’s life, a new study suggests.
The research conducted in the U.K. was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. It followed 5,000 kids from infancy in the early 2000s through high school. They were divided into three groups – not breastfed; breastfed a few months; and breastfed for more than 12 months. Researchers checked the children’s results in the General Certificate of Secondary Education testing.
Researchers discovered longer breastfeeding “was associated with modest gains in academic outcomes,” they wrote. Kids breastfed for at least a year were 39% more likely to do better on math and English exams than those who had not been breastfed and were more than 20% less likely to fail an English test.
The results do not mean every child should be breastfed, said lead study author Reneé Pereyra-Elías, MD, a doctoral student and researcher in the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.
He told CNN.com it’s not always possible to breast feed and that no one should worry about putting a child at a disadvantage.
Kevin McConway, professor emeritus of applied statistics at the Open University in England, said the survey shows only a correlation, not causation.
“It’s not possible to be certain about what’s causing what,” said McConway, who was not involved in the research.
Wealthier British mothers are more likely to breastfeed, and their kids tend to do well in school, he said. “That doesn’t mean that it’s the breastfeeding that causes the children to do well at school — obviously it could be some other aspect of the fact that their family is relatively well off.”