Breastfeeding is Associated with Improved Child Cognitive Development: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Published:August 12, 2011DOI:


      To assess the association between breastfeeding and child cognitive development in term and preterm children.

      Study design

      We analyzed data on white singleton children from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study. Children were grouped according to breastfeeding duration. Results were stratified by gestational age at birth: 37 to 42 weeks (term, n = 11 101), and 28 to 36 weeks (preterm, n = 778). British Ability Scales tests were administered at age 5 years (naming vocabulary, pattern construction, and picture similarities subscales).


      The mean scores for all subscales increased with breastfeeding duration. After adjusting for confounders, there was a significant difference in mean score between children who were breastfed and children who were never breastfed: in term children, a two-point increase in score for picture similarities (when breastfed ≥4 months) and naming vocabulary (when breastfed ≥6 months); in preterm children, a 4-point increase for naming vocabulary (when breastfed ≥4 months) and picture similarities (when breastfed ≥2 months) and a 6-point increase for pattern construction (when breastfed ≥2 months). These differences suggest that breastfed children will be 1 to 6 months ahead of children who were never breastfed.


      In white, singleton children in the United Kingdom, breastfeeding is associated with improved cognitive development, particularly in children born preterm.
      BAS (British Ability Scales), MCS (Millennium Cohort Study), NVQ (National Vocational Qualification)
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