By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lots of reasons to breastfeed, but IQ boost may not be one
964604431c08784dd1ab2f5c09e0c77b01306c899df7a0fab3ef3532162aa8da
Experts list lots of reasons for women to breastfeed their infants if they can, but new research out of the United Kingdom suggests that an IQ advantage from nursing is not one of them. - photo by Lois M. Collins
Experts list lots of reasons for women to breastfeed their infants if they can, but new research out of the United Kingdom suggests that an IQ advantage from nursing is not one of them.

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

Sophie von Stumm of Goldsmiths University of London and Robert Plomin of King's College of London analyzed data from 11,582 children born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996 who were part of a large twins study. Close to two-thirds of them were breastfed, for an average of four months. The kids were given nine different intelligence tests over the course of the 16 years they were tracked. The researchers controlled for possible confounding factors such as parental education levels and socioeconomics.

Cognition has long been one of the reasons given for breastfeeding, and it's "plausible, since long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important in neurological development, are more plentiful in breast-fed babies," wrote New York Times' Nicholas Bakalar.

The study found no such advantage.

"Breastfeeding has little benefit for early life intelligence and cognitive growth from toddlerhood through adolescence," the study said, although it noted a "very weak" benefit to girls at age 2 that boys did not enjoy.

In a policy statement regarding the practice of breastfeeding, which it endorses, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes significant benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. It says breastfeeding improves a baby's immune system, reduces ear and respiratory infections, reduces the incidence of diabetes and obesity, helps with digestion and more. It's also cheaper and boosts the quality of the mother-child bond.

Lead author von Stumm told Bakalar that moms who don't breastfeed sometimes are criticized. Its almost an accusation these days, she said, that youre purposely harming your child. Thats not the case, and its not helpful for new mothers. Kids do lots of things that have an influence on IQ. Breast-feeding has no effect that can be distinguished from family background or socioeconomic status.

"Von Stumm may not have said it, but I think studies like this one are helpful for us nursing moms, too," wrote Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow on a blog for Parents.com. "Each of us believes we're doing the right thing for our child, but it's important to be reminded that when it comes to parenting, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. And that holds especially true for how we choose to feed our babies."
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter