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Do Breast-Fed Baby Boys Grow Into Better Students?
Date:12/20/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Adding to reports that breast-feeding boosts brain health, a new study finds that infants breast-fed for six months or longer, especially boys, do considerably better in school at age 10 compared to bottle-fed tots, according to a new study.

''Breast-feeding should be promoted for both boys and girls for its positive benefits," said study leader Wendy Oddy, a researcher at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia.

For the study, published online Dec. 20 in Pediatrics, she and her colleagues looked at the academic scores at age 10 of more than a thousand children whose mothers had enrolled in an ongoing study in western Australia.

After adjusting for such factors as gender, family income, maternal factors and early stimulation at home, such as reading to children, they estimated the links between breast-feeding and educational outcomes.

Babies who were mainly breast-fed for six months or longer had higher academic scores on standardized tests than those breast-fed fewer than six months, she found.

But the outcome varied by gender, and the improvements were only significant from a statistical point of view for the boys. The boys had better scores in math, reading, spelling and writing if they were breast-fed six months or longer.

Girls breast-fed for six months or longer had a small but statistically insignificant benefit in reading scores.

The reason for the gender differences is unclear, but Oddy speculates that the protective role of breast milk on the brain and its later consequences for language development may have greater benefits for boys because they are more vulnerable during critical development periods.

Another possibility has to do with the positive effect of breastfeeding on the mother-child relationship, she said. "A number of studies found that boys are more
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