Duration of breastfeeding and developmental milestones during the latter half of infancy

Acta Paediatr. 1999 Dec;88(12):1327-32. doi: 10.1080/080352599750030022.


Several studies have suggested that breastfeeding has a long-term influence on brain development. However, interpretation of these findings is complicated by the presence of many potential confounding factors. Only a few studies have examined infants before 1 y of age, although very early assessment might reduce the role of environmental influence. We investigated the association between exclusive breastfeeding and three developmental milestones related to general and fine motor skills and early language development at the age of 8 mo. We followed 1656 healthy, singleton, term infants, with a birthweight of at least 2500 g, born between May 1991 and February 1992 in Aarhus, Denmark. Information was collected at 16 wk gestation, at delivery and when the infant was 8 mo old. Motor skills were evaluated by measurement of crawling and pincer grip. Early language development was defined as the ability to babble in polysyllables. The proportion of infants who mastered the specific milestones increased consistently with increasing duration of breastfeeding. The relative risk for the highest versus the lowest breastfeeding category was 1.3 (95% CI: 1.0-1.6) for crawling, 1.2 (95% CI: 1.1-1.3) for pincer grip and 1.5 (95% Cl: 1.3-1.8) for polysyllable babbling. Little change was found after adjustment for confounding. In conclusion, our data support the hypothesis that breastfeeding benefits neurodevelopment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child Language*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors