Does breastfeeding actually make for smarter kids? Here's what science has to say

Talk about food for thought!
Will breastfeeding make your kid smarter?
Will breastfeeding make your kid smarter? (iStock)

Breastfeeding is a topic often debated regarding its health benefits for babies and whether it should be done in public, but one recent study may have just debunked claims that a breastfed child may turn out smarter than a bottle-fed one.

 

Due to the nutrients found in breast milk, it has long been said that "breast is best" when it comes to feeding infants, but for every mom who opts to breastfeed for its benefits, there is another who doesn't for a multitude of reasons, that, most likely, could make her subjected to scorn from her fellow mothers. As if raising a newborn, no matter if it's your first or your fifth, isn't hard enough, let's now add to the mix backlash for choosing not to breastfeed, which can sometimes come with as many hardships as it does benefits.  

 

One benefit long associated with breastfeeding is that it is considered a major catalyst for children’s cognitive and noncognitive development, but the study recently published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the two factors may not be linked at all.

 

About 8,000 families in the years-long "Growing Up in Ireland" study were were included in the Pediatrics report. The children were evaluated for vocabulary and cognitive skills, first at 9 months old and again when they were ages 3 and 5. At 3 and 5, the children were given tests to gauge their cognitive capabilities, and breast-fed children had minimally higher scores.

 

"We weren't able to find a direct causal link between breastfeeding and children's cognitive outcomes," study author Lisa-Christine Girard told NPR.

Other factors, such as home environment, social class and parents’ IQ and education levels, play bigger roles in shaping a child’s cognitive behaviors than breastfeeding, the study said.

The study did show, however, that kids who were breastfed for six months or longer had lower rates of hyperactivity and higher skills for problem-solving at age 3. By the time the child turned 5, though, those differences shrank.

On those behaviors, the study deduced "the earlier observed benefit from breastfeeding may not be maintained once children enter school."

While breastfeeding might not make your offspring brainier after all, other research previously cited in Pediatrics has found that it helps reduce a child’s chances of becoming obese as well as developing diabetes, childhood leukemia and allergic diseases like asthma, celiac and eczema.