Although previous research has suggested that breastfed children may have higher intelligence scores, a recent study has found that breastfeeding has little or no effect on intelligence.
Scottish researchers examined the intelligence scores of 5,475 children born to 3,161 mothers. The kids' cognitive abilities were assessed every 2 years between the ages of 5 and 14. The mothers also underwent intelligence testing and provided information about whether they breastfed and the child's age when they stopped.
Researchers found that breastfed kids were more likely to have moms with higher IQ scores who were older, less likely to smoke, and more likely to provide a stimulating home environment.
But when researchers took into account a mother's education, intelligence level, and cognitive stimulation at home, they found that breastfeeding had little or no influence on intelligence. In fact, it was the mother's intelligence level that played the largest part in explaining a child's intelligence level.
What This Means to You
The results of this study cast doubt on whether breastfeeding enhances intelligence in infants. It's important to remember, though, that breastfeeding is linked to a number of other health benefits, including reduced risk of ear infections, diarrheal illness, and respiratory infections, and is considered the best, most easily digestible form of nutrition for your baby. If you have any questions about breastfeeding, your doctor or a lactation consultant can offer advice and guidance.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: November 2006
Source: Geoff Der; G. David Batty; Ian J. Deary; British Medical Journal, October 4, 2006.