A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University has revealed that breastfed children have a higher likelihood of achieving top GCSE results compared to those who were not breastfed.
The study examined data from 4,940 pupils born in England between 2000 and 2002.
According to media reports, the findings showed that the longer children were breastfed, the better they performed in GCSE exams taken at age 16.
This is attributed to the brain development benefits provided by the nutrients in breast milk.
The study also found that breastfeeding for a minimum of four months significantly increased the chances of children passing at least five GCSEs.
Moreover, children who were breastfed for longer durations had a higher percentage of achieving top grades in both English and Maths GCSEs.
This positive association between breastfeeding and academic success remained even after accounting for influential factors such as socio-economic background and maternal intelligence score.
Published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, this study represents the largest investigation of its kind to demonstrate the positive impact of breastfeeding on academic achievement.
The researchers utilised data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked the progress of 18,818 babies in the UK.
The lead author of the study, Reneé Pereyra-Elías from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, stressed the importance of promoting breastfeeding due to its multiple potential benefits beyond academic performance.
The study highlights that breastfeeding supports brain development through the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients in breast milk.
It may also enhance mother-child bonding, contributing to increased intelligence. However, it is worth noting that improved academic outcomes associated with breastfeeding are not solely dependent on biological factors.
Factors such as socio-economic background and stimulating home environments can also influence a child’s development.
Breastfeeding has already been linked to reduced infections, better school performance, and a lower risk of chronic illnesses. Untangling cause and effect in scientific associations can be complex.
According to the study, it is important to consider that breastfeeding mothers often come from more privileged backgrounds, and the act of breastfeeding promotes bonding and increased stimulation, which can positively impact brain development.
The study’s findings also underscore the intelligence-boosting effects of breast milk, which contains essential fatty acids crucial for brain growth.