LONDON — Breast-feeding has no impact on a child’s intelligence, according to research published on Wednesday.
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Although breast-feeding has many advantages for children including reducing infections, respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, enhancing a child’s intelligence does not appear to be among them.
“Breast-feeding has little or no effect on intelligence in children,” Geoff Der of Britain’s Medical Research Council, said in a report published online by the British Medical Journal.
The researchers found that although breast-fed children scored higher on IQ tests this was because their mothers tended be more intelligent, better educated and provided a more stimulating environment at home.
Der and scientists from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland analyzed data on 5,475 children and 3,161 mothers in the United States.
Scientists have been looking at possible links between breast-feeding and intelligence for decades. Der said the key to understanding a child’s IQ was the intelligence of the mother.
“A rough generalization is that in studies that factor in the mother’s IQ, there isn’t much difference between breast-fed and non-breast-fed babies,” Der said in an interview.
“But if you don’t count the mother’s IQ, that tends to double breast-feeding’s apparent effect and is likely to overestimate a children’s IQ.”
The researchers also looked at siblings who had been breast-fed and bottle-fed.
“The ones that were breast-fed should have been more intelligent, but there was no significant difference,” Der said.
Although the study did not find a link to intelligence, the authors stressed breast-feeding had many other advantages for mothers and children.
Previous studies have shown that when babies are breast-fed for the first six months of life they grow better without getting too fat.
Researchers have also shown that breast-feeding has a beneficial impact on blood pressure and cholesterol levels later in life which reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.