Breast-Feeding Does Not Boost Offspring's IQ

Maternal IQ explains breast-feeding's effect on a child's intelligence

THURSDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding does not affect a child's intelligence after correction for maternal IQ, according to the results of the largest-ever study to explore this connection. The findings were published online Oct. 4 in BMJ.

Geoff Der, Ph.D., of the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, Scotland, and colleagues found that when they controlled for maternal intelligence, most of the effect that breast-feeding was thought to have on a child's intelligence disappeared. They conducted a prospective study among 5,475 children from 3,161 mothers, a sibling-pairs analysis, and a meta-analysis.

One standard deviation advantage in maternal IQ score more than doubled a newborn's chance of being breast-fed. Before adjustment, breast-feeding was associated with a four-point increase in mental ability, but controlling for maternal intelligence accounted for most of this effect. When all confounders (including level of cognitive stimulation at home, mother's educational attainment and age at child's birth, birth order and finances) were considered, the effect of breast-feeding on intelligence was "small" and "non-significant."

However "breast-feeding remains an 'an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants,'" the authors conclude.

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