Breastfeeding Might Not Improve a Child’s Intelligence, Study Says

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Child’s IntelligenceWhile prior studies suggest a link between breastfeeding and IQ, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE, breastfeeding does not increase a child’s intelligence.

For the study, Dr. Sophie von Stumm and her colleagues from Goldsmiths University of London, UK analyzed data of 11,582 twins who were born between 1994 and 1996. The subjects were part of the Twins Early Development Study conducted at King’s College in London, UK.

Researchers collected breastfeeding data from the children’s mothers within the first two years after birth. The intelligence level of each twin was assessed at the ages of 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 16. The team was then able to analyze how breastfeeding affected each subject’s intelligence over time.

The team discovered that girls who were breastfed had a higher IQ at the age of two than those who were not breastfed. However, according to researchers, this factor was considered “weak” and wasn’t observed among boys who were breastfed.

Further, researchers found no association between breastfeeding and a higher IQ among boys and girls after two years of age—according to the team this indicates that breastfeeding does not impact a child’s cognitive development over time.

Dr. Stumm, however, stresses that breastfeeding does have other beneficial influences on children: “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, for the development of children’s autoimmune system. That said, mothers should be aware that they are not harming their child if they choose not to, or cannot, breastfeed.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “Breastfeeding ‘does not improve a child’s intelligence’,” Medical News Today web site, September 27, 2015;
Von Stumm, S., et al., “Breastfeeding and IQ growth from toddlerhood through adolescence,” PLOS ONE September 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138676.