The study of 47 children who began stuttering at an early age found a dose-dependent association between breastfeeding and a child's likelihood of recovering from stuttering, with children who were breastfed longer more likely to recover, researchers said. (Agencies)
Boys, who are disproportionately affected by stuttering, appeared to benefit the most. Boys in the study who breastfed for more than a year had approximately one-sixth the odds of developing persistent stuttering than boys who never breastfed, they said.
Researchers Nicoline Ambrose and Jamie Mahurin-Smith, from the University of Illinois questioned the mothers about their children's willingness and ability to breastfeed, and 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.
"We've known for years that both genetic and environmental factors contributed to stuttering, but our understanding of the specific environmental variables in play has been murky,"
"These findings could improve our understanding of stuttering persistence and recovery," Mahurin-Smith said.
Several earlier studies had found "a consistent association between breastfeeding and improved language development," the researchers said.
Ambrose and Mahurin-Smith 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," Mahurin-Smith said.
"Fluent speech requires an extraordinarily complex sequence of events to unfold rapidly, and our hypothesis was that early differences in neurodevelopment could cause difficulties with speech fluency later in life," he said.
The study of 47 children who began stuttering at an early age found a dose-dependent association between breastfeeding and a child's likelihood of recovering from stuttering, with children who were breastfed longer more likely to recover, researchers said.