Can Breastfeeding Affect Your Child’s Intelligence?

The curve in the middle of the path .... its gone what do you think???
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography

By now, we trust that mothers everywhere have heard the message: Breastfeeding is best. It’s best for you and it’s best for your baby. The World Health Organization, the US Department of Health, and other leading health organizations worldwide agree. There is no better food for your developing baby than the milk that your body produces for her.

Can it really make her smarter, though? Recent studies are fairly conclusive on the matter. The answer is an emphatic YES.

Show me the numbers

A recent study conducted for the European Journal of Pediatrics considered over 450 babies, measuring their quantitative intelligence at various intervals throughout their preschool years. The babies were divided into the following categories:

  • Babies who had not been breastfed at all.
  • Babies who had been breastfed up to three months.
  • Babies who had been breastfed four to six months.
  • Babies who had been breastfed exclusively for the recommended six months or longer.

The results were telling. Babies who had been breastfed for six months or more consistently test out 3.8 points higher than babies who had not been breastfed. Further, babies who had been breastfed for shorter periods scored better in proportion to how long they had been on the breast. For babies who had been breastfed three months, scores were up by 2.1, and for babies who had been breastfed four to six months, the advantage was 2.6 points.

Not just the milk, but the method

Research is still ongoing, but it is believed that the increase in intelligence has to do with more than just the quality of mom’s milk. As anyone who has breastfed a baby can tell you, breastfeeding is both intimate and interactive. It is believed that this close interaction with mom helps stimulate baby, accounting for at least some of the higher scores.

Of course, bottle fed babies can and do grow up to be very intelligent people, too. Breastfeeding is only one of many factors which tie into your baby’s mental development. But isn’t it worth it to give your child any extra edge you can, especially if it’s also healthy for him physically? What other things can you do to help develop your baby’s intelligence at an early age?


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