Does Breastfeeding Make Moms Smarter?

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The latest study performed by sociologists at Brigham Young University found a major clue that tells the story about why breastfed babies are so smart: Their moms! (Duh.)

Led by Ben Gibbs, researchers are Brigham Young found that there are two major parenting skills that help give babies the notable cognitive boost: The fact that moms respond to their children’s emotional cues and read to their children earlier, starting at nine months old. Which means that nursing mothers are more responsive to their babies, picking up on a newborn’s cues better (both emotional and physical) and encouraging them from an earlier age (in this case, by reading to them).

Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, Gibbs and his colleagues analyzed a national data set that followed 7,5000 mothers and their babies from birth to five years old. The data included information on their home environment (which included how early and how often parents read to their kids) and video-tapped activities of mom and baby (which detailed a mother’s supportiveness and sensitive as a child tried to complete a challenging task).

Researchers found that the most-at-risk children were the least likely to receive the optimal parenting that they needed in early childhood, and children who where breastfed for six months (or longer) performed the best on reading assessments because they had “experienced the most optimal parenting practices.” And, according to the analysis, improvements in sensitivity to emotional cues and time reading to children (measured by math and reading success) could cause two-three months’ worth of brain development by age four.

Gibbs said, “It’s really the parenting that makes the difference. Breastfeeding matters in others ways, but this actually gives us a better mechanism and can shape our confidence about interventions that promote school readiness. Because these are four-year-olds, a month or two represents a non-trivial chunk of time. And if a child is on the edge of needing special education, even a small boost across some eligibility line could shape a child’s educational trajectory.”

Do you think that how you feel your baby affects their cognitive abilities?

Plus, more from The Bump:

New Study Says Breastfeeding Benefits Are ‘Overrated’: What Do You Think?

Top 10 Reasons to Breastfeed

4 Breastfeeding Myths — Busted!