There are lots of reasons to consider breastfeeding—the health benefits, the consistent opportunities to bond, zero cost and next-to-no clean-up—but boosting your kiddo's intelligence may not be one of them.
According to a new long-term study conducted by British researchers, breastfed boys and girl fared no better on IQ tests than their bottlefed peers. To reach that conclusion, the scientists examined 11,582 kids born between 1994 and 1996, following them from birth through age 16. Nearly two-thirds of the children were breastfed for an average of four months; the rest were bottlefed. All of the children took a total of nine IQ tests over the course of the 16 years they were studied, and the results were adjusted for such factors as socioeconomic status, the mom's age, and the parents' education.
In the end, researchers discovered that breastfed boys didn't score any higher on the intelligence tests, and breastfed girls had a slight but insignificant bump in their scores.
My guess is that the findings, published in PLUS One, will be met with mixed feelings among moms. Such is the case with a subject as personal—and hotly debated—as breastfeeding is. But as the study's lead author, Sophie von Stumm of Goldsmiths University of London, points out, the conclusions could help bolster mamas who feel judged for feeding their babies formula.
"It's almost an accusation these days, that you're purposely harming your child," she told the New York Times. "That's not the case, and it's not helpful for new mothers. Kids do lots of things that have an influence on IQ. Breastfeeding 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. 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.
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