Breastfeeding and early child development: a prospective cohort study
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Aim: Breastfeeding has been associated with multiple developmental advantages for the infant; however, there have also been a number of studies that find no significant benefits to child development. We examined the relationship between breastfeeding for 4 months or longer and child development at age 1, 2 and 3 years. Methods: Women were enrolled in the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study (N = 2900) and their live born children (N = 2868) were followed to the age of 3 years (N = 2280). Infant feeding data were collected at each age, and the mothers completed the Infant/Child Monitoring Questionnaire (IMQ), which measures progress towards developmental milestones in the domains of gross and fine motor skills, adaptability, sociability and communication. Factors adjusted for in multivariable analyses included maternal sociodemographic characteristics and stressful life events.Results: Infants breastfed for 4 months or longer had significantly higher mean scores (representing better functioning) for fine motor skills at age 1 and 3, significantly higher adaptability scores up to age two, and higher communication scores at age 1 and 3 years. Infants who were breastfed for <4 months were more likely to have at least one atypical score across the five developmental domains than those who were breastfed for 4 months or longer. Conclusion: Although our effect sizes were small, breastfeeding for 4 months or longer was associated with improved developmental outcomes for children aged one to 3 years after adjustment for multiple confounding factors.
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