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Breastfeeding does not improve IQ

Have breastfeeding trials been a success

A new study has revealed that breastfeeding is no more effective than bottle-feeding when it comes to IQ. Previous research claimed that breastfed babies have higher levels of intelligence than their bottle-fed counterparts, however this new study says this is not the case.

No link between breastfeeding and intelligence

Goldsmith’s University in London scientists have said there is no link between breastfeeding and intelligence after monitoring children between the ages of 18 month and 16 years old.

The studies’ results showed that both sets of children had an average IQ of 100, after their mothers’ ages and social status were taken into account. In addition to this, girls were moderately better in early tests by about 5 IQ points but this evened out by the time the children reached 7 years old.

Family background

The scientists concluded that factors such as family background played a larger role in whether children had large IQs.

Leader of the study Dr Sophie von Stumm said: ‘Children – and adults – differ in their cognitive abilities, and it is important to identify factors that give rise to these differences. But comparatively small events like breastfeeding are very unlikely to be at the core of something as big and complex as children’s differences in IQ.

‘Instead, children’s IQ differences are better explained by long-term factors, for example, children’s family background and their schooling.’


11,582 children born between 1994 and 1996 were included in the study, all of which were sets of twins, as researchers believe their cognitive development is the same as single children but it allowed them to check for anomalies.

62% of the children were breastfed for an average of four months, whilst the other 38% were bottle-fed. Intelligence was assessed when the children reached the ages of two, three, four, seven, nine, 10, 12, 14 and 16. Every test required the twins to complete two ability tests, including web based, phone based and parent administered tests.

Breastfed or bottle

Dr von Stumm added: ‘many researchers have previously investigated whether being breastfed in early life benefits IQ. Such an association is plausible because long-chain polysaturated fatty acids that are present in human breast milk but not animal milk or formula enhance neurodevelopment. However, few of the earlier studies have employed strong research designs that produce reliable results.’

Researchers expected there to be differences between the breastfed and bottle-fed children and believed the difference in IQ would level out as the children grew older. However, the findings showed there is little benefit to breastfeeding when it comes to cognitive development.

That said, Dr von Stumm is encouraging mothers to believe in the benefits of breastfeeding. She continued: ‘It’s important to keep in mind that while our study does not indicate a link between breastfeeding and intelligence, breastfeeding potentially has other benefits, for example the development of children’s autoimmune system.

‘That said, mothers should be aware that they are not harming their child if they chose not to, or cannot, breastfeed. Being bottle-fed as an infant won’t cost your child a chance at a university degree later in life.’



About Siobhan Harmer

About Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan Harmer is an English Freelance writer who drinks far too much coffee!!

Website: Siobhan Harmer

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