Children who are breast-fed are smarter than those who aren’t. And children who nurse longer and more intensely are smarter still, according to the largest ever study on lactation and intelligence.
The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, shows that children whose mothers breast-fed them for lengthy periods and more exclusively have consistently higher IQ scores than those who are nursed for shorter times and fed other foods.
Dr. Michael Kramer, head of human development and childhood health at the CIHR, led the study, published in the May edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“I haven’t got a clue,” Kramer, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at McGill University, said of the reasons for the difference.
“It could be something in the milk or, and this is my hope … it could be something related to the physical contact or the emotional contact between the mother and the baby during breast (feeding) that’s not there during the bottle feeding,” he said.
What his study does do, Kramer says, is dispel any lingering doubts that breast-feeding babies makes them an average three to five IQ points smarter than children who are fed formula.