When It Comes to Your Child’s IQ, There’s No Difference Between Breastmilk and Formula

By this point, we’ve all heard the arguments about why breastfeeding is “best”. There have been numerous studies published touting the positive benefits of breastmilk, and it’s recommended by both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. I breastfed both of my own children, so an insanely long time. Didn’t necessarily start out to do that, but it worked out well so on we went! But the push for “breast is best” can have a detrimental effect on women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. And in reality, many of the benefits of breastfeeding have been overstated as part of this campaign. While there ARE many benefits to nursing your kids, a new study shows that higher intelligence isn’t one of them.

The new study is a follow-up to the oft-cited PROBIT study out of Belarus. The PROBIT study found that children part of a group designed to promote exclusive and extended breastfeeding had higher IQ’s at at 6.5 years of age.

The PROBIT study put babies in two programs: exclusively breastfed, and typical postnatal care. Researchers assessed the breastfeeding habits of the mother-child pairs at six different times. They found that at 6.5 years of age, the breastfed group had higher IQ scores.

However, this new follow-up study seems to debunk those earlier results. When assessed again at the age of 16, researchers found no benefit on “overall neurological function” between the two groups.

There was a small beneficial effect on verbal function which is consistent with the results from 10 years ago. According to the study, “higher verbal ability is consistent with results observed at early school age; however, the effect size was substantially smaller in adolescence.” The authors of the study say these results show that “long-term effects of breastfeeding on neurocognitive development decrease in magnitude with advancing age, and the persistent benefit seems to be limited to verbal function.”

Basically, your kid’s IQ won’t be higher because they had breastmilk. There is no difference between breastmilk and formula when it comes to long-term intelligence.

There are so many reasons to breastfeed your child. Like I mentioned, the benefits are plentiful! But, more than anything, FED IS BEST. If you can’t breastfeed? That is more than OK. If you don’t want to breastfeed? ALSO MORE THAN OK. We’re all doing what’s best for us, and that is what you need to do. Don’t worry too much about the breastmilk vs formula bullshit. Just feed your baby! There may be a number of reasons why your kid won’t get into Yale, but because they were raised on formula definitely isn’t one of them.

(Image: iStock/Aliseenko)

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