Breastfeeding and the Developing Brain
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In past ages success was measured by physical strength and prowess as a warrior. But in the modern age maximising intelligence, cognitive development and language skills at the community and individual level is paramount. The influence of early nutrition and particularly breastfeeding, in cognitive development has been of research interest over the past century The first modern study published in the medical literature was in 1929 and reported on a study of 338 children aged between 7 and 11 years and found that breastfed infants performed better at school (Hoefer and Crumpton Hardy 1929). In common with many subsequent studies, exposure to breastfeeding was ascertained retrospectively with the reporting errors and risk of misclassification this is likely to bring (Binns et al 2012). A typical example of cohort studies of infant feeding and cognitive development was the Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study, a 15- year longitudinal study that commenced in 1972 (Silva 1990). However, assessment of breastfeeding status was obtained retrospectively at the age of 3 years and breastfeeding was recorded as grouped data and not as a continuous variable (<1 week n463, 1-4 weeks n=98 ... more than 51 weeks n30). At 3, 5 and 7 years the children who were breastfed for longer, had higher scores on the battery of intelligence tests administered (Fergusson et al 1982).
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