Published 11. 07. 2022
There is evidence that, with rare exceptions, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns. However, there is still no consensus among experts on the optimal duration of breastfeeding. A long-term study by Czech and Slovak scientists has confirmed the positive effect of breastfeeding for children's natural development of cognitive functions. The study was conducted by scientists from the IEM CAS (MUDr. Radim Šrám, DrSc. and MUDr. Anna Pastorková CSc.) in collaboration with colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences of the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, the Hospital in České Budějovice and the L. Pasteur University Hospital in Košice.
Cognitive functions are one of the main areas of the human psyche; their centres are located in different parts of the brain. It is through cognitive functions that a person perceives the world around them, acts, reacts and manages various tasks. In addition to memory, cognitive functions also include concentration, attention, speech functions, speed of thought, and the ability to comprehend information.
The significance of breastfeeding on cognitive function in children has been studied in cohorts of newborns from the districts of Karviná and České Budějovice, which differ significantly in the level of air pollution. This may result in delayed cognitive development and the development of chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
A total of 147 children (80 from České Budějovice, 67 from Karvina) born in 2013 and 2014 were included in the study. Cognitive function was assessed at five years of age using the Bender-Gestalt (BG) and Raven's Color Progressive Matrices (RCPM) tests. The Raven's Color Progressive Matrices (RCPM) is a screening non-verbal intelligence test widely used worldwide to test children aged 5-11 years. It tests understanding of complex patterns and the ability to store and recall information. The Bender-Gestalt (BG) drawing test is a method of developmental diagnosis of perceptual-motor function and neurological impairments. The ability to reproduce (draw) presented geometric patterns is tested.
The researchers collected information about breastfeeding and child development from maternal questionnaires. It was found that breastfeeding for longer than six months positively affected the BG and RCPM test results. It can be assumed that breastfeeding for longer than six months has a positive effect, especially on the development of cognitive functions in children living in areas with high levels of air pollution. The results also showed that the level of maternal education also influenced the quality of cognitive development: higher levels of the RCPM test were obtained for children of mothers with a university education.
The results show that breastfeeding for six months or more positively affects children's psychological development.
More information about the study you can find here.