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Breastfeeding Means Smarter Babies

Breastfed Babies Are Smarter

Moms who breastfed their children often preach about its benefits and how much they enjoyed the bonding experience. I nursed my child, but certainly don't feel superior to those who don't. I believe it's a very personal decision — often made by the body.

That said, a researcher released a new study saying:

The children in the group where breastfeeding was encouraged scored about five percent higher in IQ tests and did better academically.

To learn about the study,


Researchers studied 14,000 babies over six–and–a–half years. Half of the children were assigned to a group where breastfeeding was encouraged.

The other group received no special motivation to nurse their children. At three months, 73 percent of the encouraged group was still nursing compared to the 60 percent in the other group. Among the mothers motivated to nurse, they were more inclined to only give their infant breast milk – seven times as much as the other group.

Dr. Michael Kramer of McGill University in Montreal attributes the difference in scores to the mother instead of the act of breastfeeding. He told MSNBC:

Mothers who breastfeed or those who breastfeed longer or most exclusively are different from the mothers who don’t. They tend to be smarter. They tend to be more invested in their babies. They tend to interact with them more closely. They may be the kind of mothers who read to their kids more, who spend more time with their kids, who play with them more.

It could even be that because breast-feeding takes longer, the mother is interacting more with the baby, talking with the baby, soothing the baby. It could be an emotional thing. It could be a physical thing. Or it could be a hormone or something else in the milk that’s absorbed by the baby.

Whatever the reason, the evidence from the study shows that breastfed babies do score higher than their peers. So if you want a brainy baby, let it flow!

Join The Conversation
snowysakurasky snowysakurasky 9 years
Don't blame yourself or feel guilty if you went with formula. But do realize that you are a victim of the formula companies' profit-driven motives and their advertising. Please stop complaining about the campaigns and studies that have human health as a main objective. If everyone went with formula, mean human IQ would eventually go down. Formula is not as good as breastfeeding and it can affect your child in many different ways besides their IQ. The inside of formula cans also contains a dangerous type of plastic, of which baby bottles containing were recently banned in Canada. Just because something (formula) was all the rage in the 1950s and many people survived it does not mean it is the correct choice. Smoking was popular 100 years ago and people were unaware of the risks. Trans-fat loaded deep-fried foods were popular and nobody knew that they were bad for health. 20 years ago organic foods were mainly popular with hippies and now most wealthy people eat organic. With what we know now about formula, I predict that we will learn some more bad news about it in the future. Breastfeeding was incredibly painful for me for at least one month and I one day realized that it didn't really hurt anymore. I really didnt want to do it because of the pain and what was stopping me was thinking about the ingredients in a can of formula, which i would never want to eat for dinner. Would you want to live on slim-fast/atkins type vanilla drinks made of powered oil and water? Nasty! And as a breast-feeding mother, I do notice that we as a group seem to be more concerned with our babies well-being; -avoiding TV; being knowledgeable about baby care and risks, spending more time with the baby in interactive play, and that kind of thing. This is just an observation of the less than 20 women who I know who have babies. But I would love to hear back from ff women who feel that they are great mothers with details since the ones I have met, while loving and not irresponsible by any means, seem less attached and devoted to their babies and more likely to have another primary caregiver. What about the people who really can't breastfeed? There should be milk banks which operate by buying and selling instead of relying on donations. And when those are up and running, formula should be only available when there is not enough breast milk for everyone. That would only happen if govt was not corrupted by the HUGE corporations which make formula. Yes, this is quite unrealistic but would be great for society!
macgirl macgirl 9 years
I had nearly the exact same experience as Schnappy with breast feeding my son. Studies like this don't bother me. I know and agree that there are benefits from breast feeding. I think that most people that FF would agree with that too. And actually, 5%?? That's not really a big deal. That could be taken as a nod to formula for being almost as good as breast milk these days. I've had more than a few rounds with the BF militant types. Was told that formula wasn't a good second choice, in fact it wasn't a good third or fourth choice. What the f does that even mean? I do realize though that the BF'ers in the world don't exactly have it easy either as BF'ing in public or past the age of 1 often gets them funny looks or comments. Which that has to really suck as well.
macneil macneil 9 years
But is that the case, ohjeeze? Because I do believe there's something in the breastmilk! Obviously I hope I'm wrong, but that's what I can't help believing - because of the other study from a few months back which said that 1/10 children had a gene that meant breastfeeding didn't make them smarter, but 9/10 it did. That would suggest a chemical rather than a nurturing difference in the breastfed children, if there was an observable genetic difference. I think...
ohjeeze ohjeeze 9 years
I agree that we should encourage women to breastfeed but we should not mislead women with these studies either. When they tell women breastfed babies are smarter women will begin to think that something is coming out of their milk that will make their baby smarter which is not the case. It is about socioeconomic status. So a breastfed baby of a poverty level single mother who works two jobs but cannot afford to put her baby in daycare is not going to be "smarter" than a upper middle class formula fed baby who has been read to from day one and has good access to learning tools. No one can deny that these studies can be very misleading and that the researchers are sometimes trying to "encourage" women to breastfeed by twisting words and not showing all the facts.
macneil macneil 9 years
Not being able to breastfeed has been the most traumatic thing in my life, and I haven't had some perfect life. I wept every day for hours, for months, when I couldn't get my daughter to latch (her mouth was too small, the c-section meant she was too weak and small and drugged to start). I pumped milk for 5 months but produced barely any. Yes, these studies do make women like me feel even more miserable - we are mourning the loss of the closeness with our babies, primarily. But they're valid, and it is always worth encouraging more women to breastfeed.
Dbtabm Dbtabm 9 years
I always find these studies so interesting because I was formula fed and have a very high IQ and both of my younger siblings were breast fed and have learning disabilities. I think it's probably more of a socioeconomic factor. To each their own. Breastfeeding is great but if you can't do it don't feel bad, as long as you love and educate your child they will be fine.
SweetPeasMom SweetPeasMom 9 years
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
Even if one pregnant woman heard this on the news and decided to give breastfeeding a try, it's worth it. Feeling guilty about FF is sort of a personal problem, I think. If you made that decision, why would/should you feel bad about it?
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
You know, I hear that there are women out there who make horrible comments like that about FFing women. While it might just be that I'm naturally more inclined to notice comments criticizing "my side" than others, I see a LOT more comments from FFing mothers complaining that any positive comment about BFing is criticizing their choice or trying to make them feel guilty. It seems that any time there is a positive post about breastfeeding, there is an immediate and vocal reaction that it's awful to make mothers feel guilty, etc... So, I'm sure there are the "militant" people on both sides of the debate. The fact of the matter is that we should ALL have access to available information and we ALL have the right to make our own choices. While I do think the doctor could have chosen his words more sensitively, I don't see anything wrong with presenting the results of scientific studies.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
That's a great explanation, ohjeeze.
SweetPeasMom SweetPeasMom 9 years
No. I would not be annoyed with that. If you re-read what I wrote before, I said I understand there are circumstances where breastfeeding can not happen.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
ohjeeze, you hit the nail on the head there.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
shcnappycat, I have seen that too...many times...I have had women say that FF your child is like poisoning them.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
There is a big difference in women who are pro-BFing and like to share their experiences and knowledge and speak up for it, and those more militant women who refuse to listen to other opinions and feel the need to flaunt it whenever possible. I have actually seen women post things that they are better people and mothers and think FFing women are stupid and are abusing their children. That irks me. That's all I'm saying.
ohjeeze ohjeeze 9 years
I just want to add that 5% isn't much. Many researchers say that even though a young child scores high on an IQ test it does not mean it will last many children begin to average out as they get older (they should do a study on why it does not last). This is why they ask parents to retest their children every 3 or so years to see if their IQ is still high. I also think the words the doctor used is what turned people off. Saying highly educated or have more resources is better than saying "smarter". If he had said that he would've gotten a better response because then it would not have come off as judgemental. If a woman is well educated than she knows where she can go to get information on breastfeeding, if she has more resources this means she can get help with caring for the baby and will have more time to breastfeed. All of this also means the woman would be able to give her baby a good education. What he said is making more sense to me now, because the IQ is not in the milk it is in the environment.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
sweetpeasmom, so would you get annoyed with a mother who could not breastfeed due to having to take certain meds that pass through breastmilk?
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
I think my last post was flagged for an obscenity which was purely an accident!! LOl. Thanks schnappycat, you said pretty much what I was thinking anyway. My biggest complaint about the article is the way it comes across to women who cannot breastfeed. Even those who choose not to for their own reasons doesn't mean they are less educated. And, MANY women who breastfeed do it purely to save money. It is FREE and formula is not. not all breastfeeding mothers are well educated and doing it purely for their child and I know many who resented breastfeeding. I have one very dear friend who exclusively breastfed her daughter. She wanted to pump breastmilk so she could give the once in awhile bottle or so dad could help out or she could actually go out without baby for a few hours. Her daughter would NOT take ANY type of bottle EVER. She felt trapped most of the time and for an entire year could not leave her child even for an hour. She eventually had to go on anti depressants over it. I realize this is an extreme case, but I have heard many women who exclusively breastfeed say it wasn't what they thought it would be. Everyone knows breast is best, again..I wish the article hadn't sounded like a jab at women who choose to or have to FF their babies.
SweetPeasMom SweetPeasMom 9 years
I just dislike that when I often voice a pro-breastfeeding opinion, I'm immediately labeled as "militant" or something like that. Just because I have years and years of studies and science behind my opinion I'm trying to make non breastfeeding mothers feel bad? I understand some women can not breastfeed, and I understand that there are a variety of reasons that make it difficult. I do get annoyed at the thought of a mother not at least making an attempt to breastfeed. There are so many advantages to it. But, if someone chose to formula feed their child, why should they care if I'm bothered by it? It's their choice. However, if there's a discussion about it, I should be able to say which option I think is better.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
And I'm honestly not trying to offend anyone or start anything (hopefully I'm being reasonable), but this topic (debate) has always been interesting to me.
schnappycat schnappycat 9 years
They aren't judging FF moms here or in the study, SweetPeasMom, but there is no denying that there are very militant BFing moms out there who do judge, even if they publicly deny it. It's quite pervasive in my experience. But here, I was just responding to and agreeing with faery, which I suppose was off the topic. Jennifer, I am very educated and well-versed in the positive aspects of BFing (I took a BFing class and really did try for several weeks), but am still unsure of why I should feel compelled to be invested in nursing. For me, I weighed the benefits against the difficulties, and decided it just wasn't worth it for the slight chance DS might be a tad healthier or a teeny bit brighter (both of which I'm expecting to be a wash, quite honestly, with that of BF babies). That might sound horrible, but as a new, exhausted, and stressed-out mom (also with no family nearby), I had to choose my battles, and FFing was just a much better option. Maybe I'm a quitter or weak, but so be it. And I do applaud you for struggling through and wish I had that fortitude. I think being proud of your choice is awesome and educating others who might not understand is great. As long is it's not flaunted in other moms' faces and they are made to feel crappy (and I'm not saying you, but it does happen). I'm all about whatever choice works best for an individual's child. It's amazing how the BF/FF debate is one of the biggest among mothers.
SweetPeasMom SweetPeasMom 9 years
Nobody said bottle fed babies are stupid or anything, so why be offended? They can still be smart even if another baby is smarter. And no one is judging bottle feeding moms, either. They did a study, they said, "hey, this is what we found" and that was that.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I have to admit that I'm not really understanding the reaction here...? Should researchers who discover results that are positive for breastfed babies not disclose their work for fear it might hurt other moms? The IQ thing is a fact they discovered. I'm sure they didn't publish it specifically to hurt anybody's feelings. They've found over and over that on the whole mothers who choose to breastfeed tend to have higher educations, come from higher socioeconomic levels and therefore have more resources and it's entirely possible that these characteristics explain the positive intelligence and academic findings for breastfed babies. So, I think it's silly to read this and think well then formula fed babies are across the board less intelligent. As far as "being more invested in their babies", well that's a stretch to try to make that claim across the board. Certainly there are highly invested moms who choose not to breastfeed and vice versa. HOWEVER, I will say this. Breastfeeding was NOT easy for me with my first child. We had all kinds of latching issues, he was a little jaundiced at first and the hospital put a LOT of pressure on me to give him formula, it was murder trying to keep him awake while feeding, he wanted to eat all. the. time. and each time was a struggle, plugged ducts, blah blah blah. I spent the first few weeks really struggling with breastfeeding. Countless hours with our lactation consultant, poring over the Internet for helpful information, talking to my MIL who was very big on breastfeeding. My husband left for military training when my son was 4 days old and my closest family member lived almost 3 hours away. I had no other friends with children. I am very, very proud that I struggled through all that and succeeded. And I refuse to be made to feel guilty about that. I'm inclined to believe that people who give up on breastfeeding when it's difficult are not less invested in their babies but are less invested in the positive aspects of breastfeeding. And, I therefore think it's really important to educate people on why they should be invested in nursing. I'm not a nursing nazi and I certainly am not trying to judge anybody who makes a different choice. But, I absolutely feel compelled to do what I can to put positive information about breastfeeding out there. I'm sorry if that makes anybody feel guilty, but I think educating people so they can make the best choices is more important than making them feel good.
anniekim anniekim 9 years
faery--I agree with that. The implication that you are a bad mother if you choose nott to or unable to breast feed is awful. The tone/attitude of Dr. Kramer's quote is especially smug/condescending, I think. My husband was the only bottle fed baby out of 5 kids and he is certainly as close to his mother as the rest of his siblings and is the most intelligent (tied with his youngest sister). So there you go.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
anniekim, I do agree about formula companies...but in todays "baby world" even formula companies all share the information first and foremost that "breast is best" before ever getting into their advertising. I hear it and see it all the time. I don't expect researchers to say "formula is best". Of course not...BUT...I do NOT expect to hear researchers basically use scare tactics about babies not being smart if they aren't breastfed or mothers not bonding if they don't breastfeed.
peepshow peepshow 9 years
I'm a breast feeding Mom and I didn't allow myself to consider any alternative. BUT- I stay at home and don't have to return to work. It wasn't as easy as I expected, I had to get help. I often get jealous when my friend who has a formula fed baby the same age as mine is sleeping through the night. And her husband can just as easily feed him as she can! I say "I'm a breast feeding Mom" with pride b/c it was difficult and I stuck with it. And I'm not putting down the mothers that don't BF or couldn't BF or quit for whatever reason. Formula feeding might be the best for your HAPPY, HEALTHY baby and your situation! The article is ridiculous. So if I breastfeed and never read to my child then he'll be smarter than a formula fed, read-to baby? I think not. There are a lot of other conditions that need to be explored. (Sorry for the long post!)
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