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Duration of breast feeding and language ability in middle childhood

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 19:35 authored by Whitehouse, AJO, Robinson, M, Li, J, Wendy OddyWendy Oddy
There is controversy over whether increased breast-feeding duration has long-term benefits for language development. The current study examined whether the positive associations of breast feeding on language ability at age 5 years in the Western Australian Pregnancy (Raine) Cohort, were still present at age 10 years. The Raine Study is a longitudinal study of 2868 liveborn children recruited at approximately 18 weeks gestation. Breast-feeding data were based upon information prospectively collected during infancy, and were summarised according to four categories of breast-feeding duration: (1) never breast-fed, (2) breast-fed predominantly for <4 months, (3) breast-fed predominantly for 4-6 months, and (4) breast-fed predominantly for >6 months. Language ability was assessed in 1195 children at the 10 year follow-up (mean age = 10.58 years; standard deviation = 0.19) using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (PPVT-R), which is based around a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Associations between breast-feeding duration and PPVT-R scores were assessed before and after adjustment for a range of sociodemographic, obstetric and psychosocial covariates. Analysis of variance revealed a strong positive association between the duration of predominant breast feeding and PPVT-R at age 10 years. A multivariable linear regression analysis adjusted for covariates and found that children who were predominantly breast-fed for >6 months had a mean PPVT-R score that was 4.04 points higher than children who were never breast-fed. This compared with an increase of 3.56 points at age 5 years. Breast feeding for longer periods in early life has a positive and statistically-independent effect on language development in middle childhood.


Publication title

Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology








Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

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