More breastmilk, better development

A recent study further explored breastmilk’s effect on infant cognitive and motor development in the French EDEN Mother-Child Cohort Study (J Pediatr 2013; 163: 36-42).

The authors acknowledge that previous studies have shown that breastfed children have  higher scores at tests on cognitive abilities; “however, some authors suggested that these results were due to the difference between the socio-demographic and occupational characteristics of mothers who breastfed and those who did not.”  Though, a large randomized trial (Arch Gen Psychiatry 2008; 65: 578-84) showed convincing data that a  longer duration of exclusive-breastfeeding duration improved children’s cognitive development.

So why did the authors bother with this study? The authors note that few studies have been performed in France where breastfeeding is less common than other European countries and their object of showing a dose-response relationship would further the arguments for causality.

Design: 1387 two-year-olds and 1199 three-year-old children were assessed from the EDEN cohort (2002 pregnancies) which prospectively collected data at birth, 4 months, 8 months,   1 year, and 2 years.


  • After adjusting for many confounding factors, infants who had breastfed scored 3.7 points higher on the Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) than infants who had never breastfed.
  • Longer breastfeeding duration was associated with better cognitive and motor development in 2- and 3-year-old children.  Each additional month of breastfeeding was associated with an increase of 0.75 CDI points and 1.00 in the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).

Take-home message: Most studies, including the present, have shown benefits of breastfeeding on infant development.  In addition, there is likely a dose-response relationship.

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