Several studies have suggested a beneficial effect of infant breast-feeding on childhood cognitive function. Our main objective was to examine whether duration of breast-feeding and age at introduction of complementary foods are related to cognitive performance in 9-10 year old school going children in South-India.
We examined 514 children from the Mysore Parthenon birth cohort for whom breast-feeding duration (6 categories from <3 to ≥18 months) and age at introduction of complementary foods (4 categories from <4 to ≥6 months) were collected at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year annual follow-up visits. Their cognitive function was assessed at a mean age of 9.7 years using 3 core tests from the Kaufman Assessment Battery for children and additional tests measuring long-term retrieval/storage, attention and concentration, visuo-spatial and verbal abilities.
All the children were initially breast-fed. The mode for duration of breast-feeding was 12-17 months (45.7%) and for age at introduction of complementary foods 4 months (37.1%). There were no associations between longer duration of breast-feeding, or age of introduction of complementary foods, and cognitive function at 9-10 years, either unadjusted or after adjustment for age, sex, gestation, birth size, maternal age, parity, socio-economic status, parents’ attained schooling, and rural/urban residence.
Within this cohort, in which prolonged breast-feeding was the norm (90% breast-fed ≥6 months and 65% breast-fed for ≥12 months), there was no evidence suggesting a beneficial effect of longer duration of breast-feeding on later cognitive ability.