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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new study provides some of the best evidence to date that breast-feeding can make children smarter, an international team of researchers said on Monday.
Children whose mothers breast-fed them longer and did not mix in baby formula scored higher on intelligence tests, the researchers in Canada and Belarus reported.
The children were monitored for about 6 1/2 years.
The children in the group where breast-feeding was encouraged scored about 5 percent higher in IQ tests and did better academically, the researchers found.Previous studies had indicated brain development and intelligence benefits for breast-fed children.
"Mothers who breast-feed or those who breast-feed longer or most exclusively are different from the mothers who don't," Dr. Michael Kramer of McGill University in Montreal and the Montreal Children's Hospital said in a telephone interview.
"They tend to be smarter. They tend to be more invested in their babies. They tend to interact with them more closely. They may be the kind of mothers who read to their kids more, who spend more time with their kids, who play with them more," added Kramer, who led the study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
The researchers measured the differences between the two groups using IQ tests administered by the children's pediatricians and by ratings by their teachers of their school performance in reading, writing, math and other subjects.
Both sets of scores were significantly higher in the children from the breast-feeding promotion group.