While it's widely accepted breast-fed babies have less risk of developing infections and illnesses, a new study says breastfeeding has no effect on a child's cognitive development.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics this week, found children who are breastfed for at least six months are less hyperactive by age three than kids who were not breastfed. However, this difference disappears by the time the child is five years old.
Contrary to previous studies, the new study found breastfeeding has no long-term impact on a child's cognitive development. While the study acknowledged a link between breastfeeding and cognitive skills, researchers say the effects are too small to take into account and wouldn't last by the time entered school.
Researchers studied 8,000 Irish families and tested the children who did and didn't breastfeed at ages three and five.
The findings don't change the current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations of breastfeeding exclusively for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for one year or longer. Breastfeeding still holds many health benefits for infants' immune systems and also holds positive outcomes for mothers, such as a reduced risk of breast cancer and quicker baby weight loss.
There are other factors which affect the development of cognitive skills and breastfeeding, such as the socio-economic status of a mother. Women with higher education and income typically breastfeed their children. The socio-economic variables that affect a child's development are standalone from the effects of breastfeeding.