A new study by a University of Colorado Denver researcher concludes that breastfeeding can give children an academic edge when they reach high school, and increases their odds of attending college.
The study, co-authored by UC Denver economics Professor Daniel Rees and American University public policy Professor Joseph Sabia, appeared in the June 11 edition of the Journal of Human Capital.
Rees and Sabia looked at the academic achievement of siblings, one who had been breastfed as an infant and the other who had not, and discovered that breastfeeding was associated with an increase in high school GPA of 0.019 points and an increase in the probability of college attendance of 0.014.
"By focusing on differences between siblings, we can rule out the possibility that family-level factors such as socioeconomic status are driving the relationship between having been breastfed and educational attainment," Rees said.
The researchers examined the breastfeeding histories and high school grades of 126 siblings from 59 families, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They also obtained information on high school completion and college attendance from 191 siblings from 90 families.
"The results of our study suggest that the cognitive and health benefits of breastfeeding may lead to important long-run educational benefits for children," said Sabia, whose research focuses on health economics. "But this is just a start. Much work remains to be done to establish a definitive causal link."