The La Leche League of Ireland said a new study which shows that breastfeeding can increase a child’s IQ and future earnings, might boost rates in this country.
The research looked at 3,500 people from when they were babies to the age of 30.
Researchers studied thousands of babies in an area of Brazil where breast-feeding rates are equal across different social classes.
It found those who were breast-fed for at least a year had a higher IQ, and their earnings were 30% more than those who were bottle-fed.
The National Co-ordinator of the La Leche League of Ireland, Jan Cromie, said around half of women in Ireland breastfeed their babies.
She also said the positive results in this study were across socio-economic groups.
“It wasn’t just very well off or even middle class mothers, but it was right down to the lower end of the socio-economic income levels,” Cromie said.
“And that’s interesting – we often hear it said that breastfeeding would be considered a middle-class thing … but that doesn’t seem to be the case with this study. It’s right across the spectrum.”
Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said: “Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability.
Participants were divided into five groups based on the length of time they were breastfed as infants. The researchers took account of factors that might influence IQ, such as genetics, birthweight, parental schooling and whether or not the mother smoked during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding generally was found to increase adult intelligence, length of schooling and adult earnings. But the longer a child was breastfed, up to a period of one year, the greater the benefits turned out to be.
Someone who had been breastfed for at least a year gained four more IQ points, on average, at the age of 30 than a person who had been breastfed for less than a month.
He or she also had 0.9 more years of schooling and earnings that were higher by a third of the average income. BN