The effect of breastfeeding on child development at 5 years: a cohort study

J Paediatr Child Health. 2001 Oct;37(5):465-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2001.00702.x.


Objective: It is uncertain to what degree the relationship between breastfeeding and later cognitive development is a true biological effect, or is confounded by psychosocial factors. The study aim was to further investigate this relationship and the effect of duration of breast feeding on cognitive development.

Methods: A total of 3880 children were followed from birth. Breastfeeding duration was measured by questionnaire at 6 months of age and a Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Revised (PPVT-R) was administered at 5 years. PPVT-R scores were adjusted for the effects of a large array of biological and psychosocial confounders. The relationship between breastfeeding and the mean PPVT-R scores were examined using analysis of variance and multiple linear regression.

Results: A strong positive relationship was demonstrated between breastfeeding and the PPVT-R scores with increasing scores with increased duration of breastfeeding. After adjusting for a wide range of biological and social factors, the adjusted mean for those breastfed for 6 months or more was 8.2 points higher for females and 5.8 points for males when compared to those never breastfed.

Conclusion: These findings suggest a significant benefit to child development is conferred by breastfeeding and is related independently to longer periods of breastfeeding.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Maternal Age
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Queensland
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors