A new study published in the journal Nature Neurology shows that women who breastfeed their babies for a prolonged period of time may be able to prevent cognitive decline, according to Fox News.
In the study, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago examined data from a medical database and compared infants’ IQs after nine months of age, based on a review of American database from 70,464 mothers who were pregnant in 2013 and 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The research found that mothers who were breastfeeding for at least six months showed a reduction in their infant’s IQ in early childhood, especially for girls. However, it also showed that when mothers continued breastfeeding past six months, the IQ was not affected by the bottle-feeding.
Of the approximately 55,000 infants in the study, 24 percent of the boys and 23 percent of the girls were breastfed up to six months, according to the Tribune.
“Given previous research, it is definitely something to be aware of,” David Leffler, a pediatrician at Rush said to the Tribune. “Other countries are actually having mothers start babies on breast milk when they’re babies rather than give them bottles.”
More than 70 percent of American children in age 12 and under are being breastfed, according to Leffler.
Dr. Cynthia Johnson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Chicago, said breastfeeding has been linked to long-term cognitive development. Johnson told the Tribune that the reasons for decreased IQ in breastfed girls are thought to be partly genetic, but also due to malnutrition during the early stages of breast development.
The study was not a randomized clinical trial where the exact reasons for the decreased IQ in breastfed infants will be discovered, but could help mothers continue to breastfeed their babies, since the benefits of breastfeeding could be to their children’s long-term mental health, according to Johnson.