It May Be Difficult To Start, But Choosing To Breastfeed Can Have Lasting Positive Effects

Breastfed babies are 38% more likely to achieve higher test scores in high school compared to their formula-fed counterparts, study reveals.

The study shows that babies who were breastfed longer get better grades later in life. Breastfeeding has long been touted to have many benefits both for the breastfeeding mom and the breastfed baby. However, studies on the effects of breastfeeding later in life are few and far between. This recent study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showcases the positive impact of breastfeeding on the test scores of breastfed babies past childhood.

The study followed 5,000 children in England born between 2000 and 2002 and looked at their test scores on various standardized high school tests at age 16. The study revealed a correlation between longer breastfeeding and better educational outcomes.

How much better are the test scores?

Specifically, the research shows a 38% increased chance of high marks in various subjects including math and science, with a 25% decreased chance of failing English. 

Why is there a correlation between breastfeeding and higher test scores? 

As it turns out, breastfeeding can improve brain development due to the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients in breastmilk, and its effects can still be seen later in life.

Difficulties Breastfeeding

However, even with compelling studies on the benefits of breastfeeding, some families still find it challenging to do. Some of the reasons are less obvious, such as implicit and structural biases. Alex Caspero, MA, RD, and Registered Dietitian at Delish Knowledge, said, “Breastfeeding rates change dramatically across racial and socioeconomic divides. For example, breastfeeding rates are higher for White, Asian, and Hispanic populations than for Black populations. These disparities represent a significant inequity issue that disproportionately impacts the Black population.”

Short maternity leave in the US is also to blame. “Most women in the US receive only six weeks of maternity leave, which isn’t much time to establish a consistent breastfeeding and pumping schedule before heading back to work full-time,” Caspero says. “As any mother who has breastfed knows, it’s rewarding and incredibly demanding. When mothers aren’t given the time and support to breastfeed, rates decline.” 

For others, however, the difficulty lies in starting the breastfeeding journey. Hannah Whittaker, RD, and Expert Paediatric & Pregnancy Dietitian says, “Breastfeeding can cause soreness, engorgement, or other physical discomfort, making it challenging for mothers to continue breastfeeding.”

Even successful breastfeeding moms like Aghogho Boccardi say the beginning was difficult because of latching issues. “I had major trouble learning how to breastfeed in the beginning. I suffered from mastitis and sore nipples from latching issues. Consultations with lactation consultants didn’t help. I eventually learned to breastfeed properly, but I almost quit.”

Breastfeeding Successfully

Seasoned mothers and professionals offer suggestions on how to be successful with breastfeeding amidst difficulties. 

Whittaker shares some helpful ways to succeed in breastfeeding. “Ensure that the baby latches onto the breast correctly and that you and your baby are comfortable during feeding. If mothers struggle with feeding, it is important to speak with a health professional for support. “

Abrie McCoy, certified lactation consultant, strongly encourages seeking a lactation consultant (LC) to ensure breastfeeding success right from the start. “See a lactation professional in pregnancy. Your first appointment with an LC can teach you what you need to know in the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding. It’s also good to establish a relationship with your LC to follow up as needed.”

Many who have had success with breastfeeding echo the advice given by Whittaker and Mccoy to seek ample support, stating that having support, especially in the early days, can make the difference between giving up in the first few weeks to breastfeeding for more than one year. 

As McCoy says, “While breastfeeding may be natural, it does not always happen naturally. The parent and baby are learning together. Having support can provide a significant amount of relief for any difficulties experienced.”

Other Benefits Of Breastfeeding

For mothers who persevere and are determined to breastfeed, high test scores later in their child’s life are not the only benefits they’ll gain. There are plenty of other benefits for the breastfed baby. 

Caspero shares the benefits of breastfeeding. “The benefits of breastfeeding go beyond just nutrition for the baby. Extensive data confirms that many pediatric disorders, such as lower respiratory illnesses, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, asthma, and atopic dermatitis, occur less frequently among breastfed children.”

Benefits For Breastfeeding Mothers

Mothers also reap benefits from breastfeeding. 

“For mom, breastfeeding mothers have been shown to have lower rates of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer and type 2 diabetes,” Caspero says.

Whittaker shares more benefits of breastfeeding, specifically for mothers. According to Whittaker, the benefits of breastfeeding right after giving birth is that it stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that supports uterine contraction and helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. She also offers an economic benefit many may find comforting in the current economic situation. “Breast milk is readily available, requires no preparation, and is economically advantageous compared to formula feeding.”

This article was produced by Arnie Nicola and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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