Researchers say that mothers who breast-feed their children for less than three months may be preventing them from reaching their full intellectual potential.
The results of intelligence tests on 13-month-old babies and five- year-old children showed that those who had breast milk for less than three months were not as brightas those who had been breast-fed for at least six months. However, no difference was found in the development of movement skills, such as those involving co-ordination.
Dr Torstein Vik, of the University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, and scientists from the Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, followed 345 randomly selected children to test out the idea that breast-feeding had some effect on a baby's mental development.
"Our data suggests that longer breast-feeding benefits cognitive development," they said. They added that the intimacy of breast-feeding may be important as well as the nutrients in breast milk. Their report said biologically active peptides in human milk may influence brain growth as well as the high levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.