“A new study of 6000 babies from all socio-economic backgrounds born in 1982 has found that those who were breastfed ended up with higher IQs three decades later. They did significantly better in later life – and the longer they were breastfed, the higher their achievements,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“But babies placed in childcare before 12 months of age are likely to miss out extended breastfeeding, and the resulting benefits.
“Why is the federal government making it harder for mums to stay home in that vital first year?” she asked. “The Baby Bonus has gone. Paid parental leave is not long enough for extended breastfeeding. Homecare receives no subsidy – institutional childcare gets most of the funding, and that is likely to increase.
“The new research shows that the government’s current policy – to increase productivity by pushing more new mothers into the paid workforce with subsidised childcare – is wrong-headed.”
Other studies have shown that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores during childhood. The new study by Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta of the University of Pelotas in Brazil sought to discover whether this effect continued into adulthood, and whether it applied to all levels of society.
He found that it did. Children who had been breastfed for 12 months had an IQ that was four points higher than those breastfed for less than one month. They had nearly one year more of schooling, and earned around $A135 more per month.
Ros Phillips urged the federal government to rethink its childcare policies in order to provide more equitable support for families with young babies. “At present, the government is unfairly discriminating against mums who stay home to provide optimum care, including breastfeeding, for babies and toddlers.
“In the long-term national interest, these policies need to change,” she said.
- Family and parenthood