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It is also linked to longer schooling and higher adult earnings, the study of almost 3500 newborns has found.
“The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and child intelligence is well established, but whether these effects persist into adulthood is less clear,” explains lead author Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.
“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.
“What is unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class.
“Previous studies from developed countries have been criticized for failing to disentangle the effect of breastfeeding from that of socioeconomic advantage, but our work addresses this issue for the first time.”