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MAJOR STUDY: The longer babies breastfeed, the more they achieve in life!

March 18, 2015 Leave a comment

“Brazilian study of 6,000 babies from all backgrounds since 1982 finds those who breastfed were more intelligent, spent longer in education and earned more.” The Guardian US Edition

Breastfed babies are more likely to turn into well-educated and higher-earning adults, according to a major long-term study.

Researchers in Brazil have followed nearly 6,000 babies from birth for the past three decades, enabling them for the first time to get an idea of the long-term effects of breastfeeding. Nearly 3,500 of them, now 30-year-old adults, accepted an invitation to be interviewed and sit IQ tests for the purpose of the study. Those who had been breastfed proved to be more intelligent, had spent longer at school and earned more than those who had not been. And the longer they were breastfed as a baby, the better they tended to be doing.

It is already known that breastfeeding can increase a child’s IQ by a small amount. The question that Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil wanted to answer was whether this translated into greater intelligence and better prospects as an adult.

“Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability,” he said.

It is not just the age of the participants that makes this study unusual. Horta says it is free of the major complication of most breastfeeding studies because, when it began in 1982, it was not just the more affluent and educated mothers who breastfed in Brazil. Breastfeeding was not limited to one socio-economic group. It was, he says, evenly distributed across the social classes. So the higher achievers at the age of 30 did not come from better-off homes.

Nonetheless, in analyzing their results, now published in the Lancet Global Health journal, they took account of family income at birth, parental schooling, genomic ancestry, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal age, birth weight and type of delivery to try to avoid any of those factors skewing the results.

They found that all the breastfed babies had greater intelligence, as measured by a standard IQ test, had spent more years in education and had higher earnings. But the longer they had been breastfed, the greater the benefits. Children who had been breastfed for 12 months had an IQ that was four points higher than those breastfed for less than a month, had nearly a year’s more schooling and earned around £70 a month more – about a third more than the average income level.

Horta acknowledged he could not completely rule out the possibility mothers who breastfed helped their babies’ development in other ways. “Some people say it is not the effect of breastfeeding but it is the mothers who breastfeed who are different in their motivation or their ability to stimulate the kids,” he told the Guardian.

But, he said, there is evidence from other studies of the nutritional value of mother’s milk, rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for brain growth. Some studies have suggested babies with a particular genotype are more likely to get the IQ benefit from breastfeeding than others. Horta and colleagues are now looking to see whether that applies in their cohort.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is recommended by the World Health Organization. Horta said babies who had been breastfed for six months got most of the benefits enjoyed by those who were fed for longer. “Mothers should breastfeed for as long as possible,” he said, but he recognized that extended breastfeeding is not always easy for women. Less than a quarter of new mothers in the UK are still exclusively breastfeeding by the time the baby is six weeks old.

Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, said: “It’s widely known that breastfed babies are better protected against chest and ear infections, are at less risk of sudden infant death and are less likely to become obese, but it’s interesting to see the benefits of breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time not only benefit the baby in the early years, but also translate into increased intelligence and improved earning ability later in life.

“It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however, this study emphasizes the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Furthermore, once mothers have given birth, we must ensure they are properly supported to continue breastfeeding for as long as they are able to.”

 

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Why do Babies Cry and How Does Our Response Impact Their Lives?

July 18, 2013 2 comments

Let’s think about this, “Why do babies cry?”

I propose they cry for 4 reasons: They cry when they are wet and uncomfortable; They cry when they are ill; They cry when they are hungry; They cry when they are tired. What happens when we don’t pick them up to cure their small problems? They cry louder and they cry longer. They cannot tell us what they want. They can only cry louder and longer until we stop and make them comfortable again.

I have heard some say, “Let them cry. If you pick them up every time they cry they will get used to it and not stop until you pick them up.” I am an adult and I cry sometimes.  When I cry I want someone to hold me in their arms, to soothe me, to let me know it’s going to be OK. I want to be comforted. That’s what babies want to know, “It’s going to be OK.” Babies must have their basic needs met; they must feel safe; and they must feel valued in order to develop and learn.They want to be held in someone’s arms. They want to be comforted. Uncomforted babies grow restless, insecure, and angry.

Attachments between parents and their babies begin developing at birth. These positive early attachments of holding, hugging, loving, and caring shape the wiring in the infant brain and establish patterns for how a baby will develop relationships as they grow older. The baby’s brain develops rapidly during the first year of birth and secure parental attachments supports wiring in the brain which enables the ongoing ability of the child to form healthy relationships. Children whose earliest attachments are negative or insecure experience continuing difficulty in developing healthy peer relationships.

Parental consistency is important to the social, emotional and cognitive development of babies and young children. Regularity, predictability, routines, orderliness, and establishing and enforcing limits contribute to a positive consistent environment. Repeated experiences in a consistent environment help strengthen networks of  connections in the brain. These connections form the foundation for the development of trust in others, self-esteem, behavior regulation, and many other abilities.

Go to the Mall on any afternoon, or walk the halls of any school, or look in your own social group and identify the ones who were left to cry louder and longer.

Parent-Infant Attachments; Part One

January 6, 2010 16 comments

“What we do to our children they will do to society.”
Carl Menninger

My mother used to tell me in our quiet moments together, “It is the responsibility of each generation to improve the next.” I believed her because it made sense to me. I ask you, the reader of this post, do we want our children to be like us, or do we want them to go beyond where we are? How we parent in the early years of our children’s lives determines the quality of their attachments to us. Attachments are the critical bond children develop to their parents during their first years of life. These attachments influence their destiny.

Children learn from their parents long before they can talk and what they observe imprints upon their brains. They follow our lead for the rest of their lives. From the moment babies are born, they seek love and security from their parents. They look to their parents to respond to them consistently with sensitivity and warmth. When children find their parents to be responsive, they form secure attachments to them. Secure attachments give our children the confidence to explore their world, develop their intellect, creativity, and personality. These first attachments influence their world view, the quality of their future relationships, and how they parent their own children. Our children imitate us; we are their first example.

Andrew Meltzoff, a graduate of Harvard University, with a Ph.D. from Oxford University, co authored the book, The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us about the Mind. He states, “Babies are very active learners, very busy interpreting the emotional and linguistic signals we give them. They are as carefully looking out and trying to make sense of us as we are of them.” University-based research has confirmed that secure children exhibit increased empathy, greater self esteem, better relationships with parents and peers, enhanced school readiness, and an increased capacity to handle emotions more effectively when compared with children who are not secure.

Parent-Infant attachment observations within the research environment have concluded that babies respond in consistent and identifiable ways to a secure or insecure attachment with their parents. Research has shown that when separated from a parent during a strange or unusual situation, a securely attached baby may cry at separation but then is quickly comforted by parental return. A baby with insecure parental attachments in the same situation behaves in one of the three following ways:

  1. Baby tries to avoid the returning parent.
  2. Baby cries at separation, but is not comforted by the parents return.
  3. Baby behaves in an odd and disoriented way.

Marc Hauser, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, is researching the interface between evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience. It is aimed at understanding the processes and consequences of cognitive evolution. In one experiment he took baby monkeys away from their natural mothers. He offered them 2 other mothers; one was a wire monkey that had a food feeder; the other was a cloth monkey with no food. The monkeys, when given a choice, curled up to the cloth monkey even though it did not provide food. No matter how hungry, they preferred the cloth monkey. How can I describe to you my emotions when I saw the infant monkey clinging to the cloth mother? The memories of my sons clinging to me and me clinging back washed over me and tears came to my eyes. I did not have the benefit of research and the many internet possibilities when my sons came into our lives. I had only my intuition and common sense. I knew children needed what they now define as ‘Attachment’. It makes sense.

I believe the nature of our moral judgments, our human relationships, and our capacity for language, mathematics, music, and morality are deeply rooted in attachments between the infant and his parents.

Sites that I believe you will find interesting:

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/childhood-attachment

http://www.zerotothree.org/site/PageServer

http://www.brainybambino.com/early-child-development.html

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