Breastfeeding 'can enhance a child's IQ': Longer a mother chooses to feed baby the better their intelligence scores aged seven
The journal article ("Infant Feeding and Childhood Cognition at Ages 3 and 7 Years") is here . It is a great rarity in that it takes basic precautions against confounders. Both maternal IQ and social class were controlled for. A major reservation, however, is that IQ measured at age 7 is not at all stable and, moreover, environmental influences tend to wane as the individual gets older. So it is perfectly possible that the beneficial effect of breastfeeding might be completely washed out by the time the individuals studied reach adulthood
The apparent decision by the Duchess of Cambridge to breastfeed has been given a boost by fresh evidence showing it can help raise a baby’s IQ.
The longer the child is breastfed – ideally exclusively – the higher the intelligence scores are at the age of seven.
The study also found breastfeeding can enhance language skills from the age of three.
The US researchers recommend babies are solely fed on breast milk for the first six months and are given the chance to breastfeed until a year old.
However, British experts warned that delaying the introduction of solid foods until six months at the earliest might leave some babies feeling hungry.
It emerged yesterday that the Duchess has at least one maternity dress made for breastfeeding and was given encouragement in hospital to help her baby George start on her milk.
Earlier research has shown breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma and allergies, and confers health advantages in later life.
But only a small number of women in the UK breastfeed their babies for long periods and the number of new mothers starting in 2011 fell slightly to 73.9 per cent.
Barely 2 per cent of babies are breastfed exclusively for six months.
The latest study included 1,312 mothers and children who had taken part in Project Viva, a long-term investigation of pregnancy and child health in the US.
It found seven-year-olds breastfed for the first year of life were likely to score four points more in a test of verbal IQ than bottle-fed children.
Verbal intelligence scores at seven increased by 0.35 points for every extra month of breastfeeding.
Three-year-olds also benefited, having higher scores in a language-acquisition test the longer they had been breastfed. Exclusive breastfeeding had the greatest effect.
The US team of researchers reported the findings in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The scientists, led by Dr Mandy Belfort, from Boston Children’s Hospital, said: ‘Our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding in infancy with receptive language at age three and with verbal and non-verbal IQ at school age.
'These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through age six months and continuation of breastfeeding through at least age one year.'
A number of factors that might have influenced the results, including home environment and mothers' IQ, were accounted for by the researchers.
Children took part in several tests, including the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age three and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test at age seven.
Certain nutrients in breast milk may benefit the developing infant brain, it has been suggested.
One of these is docosahexaenoic (DHA), which is abundant in fish. Part of the research looked at whether mothers' fish consumption was linked to the benefits of breastfeeding but the results were not statistically significant.
It is thought that chemicals naturally present in breast milk can aid brain development, but skin to skin contact and bonding during breastfeeding may also play a part.
But Clare Byam Cook, an independent breastfeeding counsellor and former midwife, said: ‘It’s best to keep an open mind about what your baby’s individual needs are. 'Many babies feel hungry if they only get breast milk and most need solids before six months.’
She said mothers who can breastfeed their babies easily are giving them a great start in life.
She said: 'Most women who give up find it too difficult to continue. 'They are not unaware of the benefits to the baby, they have been brainwashed into thinking if they don't their baby will miss out and it can be a very worrying time.
Ms Cook, the author of Top Tips For Breast Feeding and Top Tips For Bottle Feeding, said there was new evidence that breastfeeding exclusively for six months may not be best for baby, putting them at risk of allergies, food aversion and even obesity.
Babies can be safely given solid foods at least eight weeks earlier in life than official Department of Health guidelines telling women to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, according to researchers.
Influential autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds
A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.
An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.
"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."
Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May. "Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.
Explainer: Autism and vaccines
Speaking to CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Wakefield said his work has been "grossly distorted" and that he was the target of "a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any attempt to investigate valid vaccine safety concerns."
The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.
In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.
"But perhaps as important as the scare's effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it," the BMJ editorial states.
Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper last February.
The series of articles launched Wednesday are investigative journalism, not results of a clinical study. The writer, Brian Deer, said Wakefield "chiseled" the data before him, "falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare."
According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.
"It's always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people to lie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motive was underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aid grants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped would benefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues."
But Wakefield told CNN that claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism "came from the parents, not me," and that his paper had "nothing to do with the litigation."
"These children were seen on the basis of their clinical symptoms, for their clinical need, and they were seen by expert clinicians and their disease diagnosed by them, not by me," he said.
Wakefield dismissed Deer as "a hit man who has been brought into take me down" by pharmaceutical interests. Deer has signed a disclosure form stating that he has no financial interest in the business.
Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said the reporting "represents Wakefield as a person where the ends justified the means." But he said the latest news may have little effect on those families who still blame vaccines for their children's conditions.
"Unfortunately, his core group of supporters is not going to let the facts dissuade their beliefs that MMR causes autism," Wiznitzer said. "They need to be open-minded and examine the information as everybody else."