According to an article in JAMA Pediatrics, the answer is “yes” by breastfeeding for longer periods of time.
It has long been established that breastfeeding helps the infant’s brain because it contains DHA (aka docosahexaenoic acid) which helps develop intellectual development. DHA is found in breast milk and also in fish. Although we advise pregnant women not to eat fish that has high concentrations of mercury such as Mackerel (King), Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish, and Bigeye Tuna, there are several other fish that have low levels of mercury as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital attempted to analyze the length of breast feeding and the intelligence of over 1300 children, aged 3 to 7 years old as well as their mothers to see if there was a cause-and-effect relationship. Children who were breastfed longer had higher intelligence scores at ages 3 and 7. The amount of fish that their mothers consumed during pregnancy was also taken into account. The researchers therefore concluded that mothers should breastfeed their babies through at least aged 6 months and preferably until they are one year’s old.
The good news is that breastfeeding has increased in the U.S. from 71% in 2000 to 77% in 2010 according to the Center for Disease Control. The bad news is that some populations, including African American women only breastfeed 50% of the time and by six- moths post partum, only 35% of U.S. women are still breastfeeding and only 20% of African American women.
If U.S. women are to breastfeed longer, workplaces will need to become more progressive and provide the space and time for postpartum women to accomplish this goal. In today’s global market, the intelligence of U.S. children should be a number one priority.
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