The researchers tried to account for the mothers' education in their assessment.
"We took into account mom's education and family income because we have seen before in other studies that mothers who are better educated tend to breastfeed for longer, and also read and look at books more often with their children," Oddy explained. "We took these factors into account in the analysi so as not to skew the results -- and babies breastfed for longer still did better in terms of their educational scores at 10 years of age."
It's been long understood that breast milk is of great value to infant neurological development. "Nutrients in breast milk that are essential for optimum brain growth, such as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, may not be in formula milk," the researchers noted.
The new data should not discourage mothers of daughters from breast-feeding, added Dr. Ruth Lawrence, director of the Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Study Center at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.
"Because we know the constituents of human milk are so important for brain development, I would not be the least bit discouraged [about] breast-feeding a girl by such data," said Lawrence, also a member of the advisory council of La Leche League International, a breast-feeding advocacy group.
Earlier this year, Oddy published a study suggesting that infants who were breast-fed longer than six months were less likely to have mental health problems as teenagers.
This new study ''adds to growing evidence that breast-feeding for at least
six months has beneficial effects on optimal child development," the researchers wrote. "Mothers should be en
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