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Breastfeeding a boy baby may give him a leg up in his elementary school classes. An Australian study of 2,868 children found that boys who had been breastfed at least six months had better scores in math, reading, writing and spelling at age 10 compared with peers who were breastfed fewer than six months. The link between longer breastfeeding and higher test scores endured even when the researchers took into account other factors that impact learning ability, such as family income and household reading habits.
While having been breastfed for six months or longer did not appear to influence girls’ academic performance, that doesn’t mean nursing won’t help girls, says Wendy Oddy, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and an associate professor at the University of Western Australia. “We know there are vital nutrients in breast milk that support brain development,” she says.
What may be more relevant is breastfeeding’s enhancement of the mother-baby bond. “A number of studies have found that male babies are more dependent on maternal attention to help develop their cognitive and language skills,” Oddy says.