New research shows children who stutter are more likely to recover, and learn to speak fluently, if they were breastfed as infants.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Communication Disorders, are based on an analysis of 47 children who began stuttering at an early age. Speech pathologists from the University of Illinois found children who were breastfed longer were more likely to recover. Boys, who are disproportionately affected by stuttering, appeared to benefit the most.
Boys who breastfed for more than a year had one-sixth the odds of developing persistent stuttering than those who never breastfed, said lead researcher Nicoline Ambrose and Jamie Mahurin-Smith.
"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," Mahurin-Smith said. "These findings could improve our understanding of stuttering persistence and recovery."
Past studies studies have linked breastfeeding and improved language development, the researchers noted. Ambrose and Mahurin-Smith suggested 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 … 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."
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