Breastfeeding may protect against persistent stuttering

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The researchers, in the University of Illinois speech and hearing science professor emerita Nicoline Ambrose and doctoral student Jamie Mahurin-Smith (now at Illinois State University) conducted a study of 47 children who began stuttering at an early age found that those who were breastfed in infancy were more likely to recover from stuttering and return to fluent speech.

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech.

The researchers found no evidence that income or maternal education had any influence on stuttering in their sample. The researchers questioned the mothers about their children’s willingness and ability to breastfeed, and also found no evidence of an underlying neurological problem that could have inhibited the children’s ability to breastfeed and to speak fluently later in life.

All the  earlier studies had found “a consistent association between breastfeeding and improved language development,” An earlier study conducted on 1997 found that babies breastfed for more than nine months had a significantly lower risk of language impairment than those breastfed for shorter periods of time. A later study found that infants who breastfed were more likely to produce “variegated babbling at earlier ages,” a key marker of healthy language development.Other studies have found associations between the duration of breastfeeding and verbal IQ or a child’s likelihood of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The researchers suggest that essential fatty acids found in breast milk but often lacking in infant formulas may help explain why longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with better brain and language development.Long-chain fatty acids found in human milk, specifically docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid, play an important role in the development of neural tissue.

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