Breastfeeding Improves Mother’s Cognitive Abilities — Years Later

Andy Hab
2 min readNov 8, 2021
Photo 26534026 / Breast Feeding © Oksun70 | Dreamstime.com

So are you saying that breast feeding is not only good for the infant but also the mother?!
Yes, we’ve know for a long, long time that breastfeeding is very good for the infant. Over the years and with more research new ways in which this are beneficial have been regularly found.

And what did this research show?
Molly Fox et al. at the University of California collected data from two population cohorts and this included 115 women of which 64 were classed as depressed and 41 as not.

More women who breastfed were non-depressed than depressed suggesting a link between breastfeeding and depression.

Oh wow and what about cognitive abilities?
Well, this is where it becomes interesting. Four cognitive tests were used to measure learning, delayed recall, executive functioning and processing. And these were all better, on average in those who had breastfed. But what is more interesting is that there is a positive correlation between how long they breastfed and these abilities!

So the more they breastfed the better their abilities?
Precisely!

And how old were these women?
They were all over 50! This suggests that not only is breastfeeding beneficial to the mother but that this lasts over a lifetime — or rather gives benefits over a lifetime.

And how is this beneficial?
Well, this is open. There is plenty of research into women and how the various lifecycle events impact their health, such as exposure to fluctuating levels of estrogen. There are mechanisms we know in promoting the health of infant such as exchange of immune cells and increased microbiota diversity.

It could be that there are other reasons such as the ability to spend a long time breastfeeding through higher financial security or the beneficial effects of the closeness to the child.

But for now breastfeeding is highly recommended
Yes, and that is why health authorities do actively promote breastfeeding. We now have another reason to support this.

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Reference:
Molly Fox, Prabha Siddarth, Hanadi Ajam Oughli, Sarah A Nguyen, Michaela M Milillo, Yesenia Aguilar, Linda Ercoli, Helen Lavretsky.
Women who breastfeed exhibit cognitive benefits after age 50.
Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2021;
DOI: 10.1093/emph/eoab027

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!