The medical benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are well documented in research. Yet the impact of breastfeeding on general cognitive abilities has been a topic of debate.
A study in the April 2017 issue of Pediatrics, "Breastfeeding, Cognitive and Noncognitive Development in Early Childhood: A Population Study" (published online March 27), included roughly 8,000 families from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal infant cohort.
While previous studies have found breastfeeding for a minimum of 6 months led to better problem-solving at age 3, authors of this new study found that effect was no longer statistically significant. In addition, no statistically significant effects were found for cognitive ability at age 5. However, study authors did note that children who were fully breastfed for 6 months or more had lower parent-rated scores for hyperactivity – but at age 3 only.
The authors conclude that their results suggest that longer durations of breastfeeding might help reduce hyperactive behaviors for children who display mild to moderate levels in the short term, but that these benefits are not maintained even in the medium term.