Positive parenting habits may be the reason for enhanced verbal skills among preschoolers, and the perceived superiority of breast milk over bottle milk in influencing cognitive abilities does not really hold water, a new study has shown. The findings have been published in the Journal Pediatrics.
The study has found that some of the advantages in the brain attributed to nutrients present in breast milk, was beneficial in the improvement of verbal skills only when breast feeding was supported with positive strokes from mother to child.
"The beneficial effects of breastfeeding on children's cognition may emerge only when breastfeeding is done in conjunction with other positive parenting behaviors," write the study authors, led by Dr. Christina Gibson-Davis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Previous studies have always shown a connection between IQ and breast feeding suggesting that breast fed children portray higher IQ's. But researchers found that, mother's education accompanied by superior parenting practices is the key factor for superior cognitive abilities in children.
During the study, researchers subjected children and their mothers to verbal tests, which revealed that children who were breast fed and showed superior verbal skills, could not be consistent with their performance, in the absence of proper parenting. Mothers who scored high on verbal tests invariably tutored their children with stimulating activities, so despite bottle-feeding, their children did rise to a good level of cognitive ability. In fact, the study found, breastfeeding did not impact the children's verbal ability when their mothers had been educated only up till the high school level.
"The advantageous effects of breastfeeding do not seem to be solely attributable to the superior nutrient content of breast milk," Gibson-Davis and her colleagues conclude.
The findings do not belittle the importance of breastfeeding, and experts still label it being the best nutrition for babies. Yet, parenting skills play a crucial role in the cognitive development of children notwithstanding breast or bottle milk.