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Are Breastfed Babies Smarter? The Debate Rages on!

In 2006 there were a slew of articles and commentaries on whether or not breastfed babies had higher IQs than their formula-fed counterparts. Fast-forward to 2008 and a new study again claims that babies who are exclusively breastfed actually do have a higher IQ. So there is no doubt that the debate will start all over again.

The current study was conducted by scientists from Canada’s McGill University and the National Research & Applied Medicine, Mother and Child Centre in Belarus. The study claims that babies who are exclusively breastfed ‘grow into more intelligent children with an IQ of up to eight points higher than babies who are given formula.’

The study group consisted of 14,000 children from Belarus who were monitored over a six year period to arrive at the result. The children, half from the breastfed group and half from the formula fed group, were all evaluated by teachers and the results showed that breastfed children performed better on IQ tests. Interestingly, the researchers were unable to state definitively whether it was the breast milk or the bond between mother and child that results from breastfeeding that results in the higher IQ levels.

Long-term, exclusive breastfeeding appears to improve children’s cognitive development,’ said Professor Michael Kramer, the lead researcher. He also stated that ‘Even though the treatment difference appears causal, it remains unclear whether the observed cognitive benefits of breastfeeding are due to some constituents of breast milk or are related to the physical and social interactions inherent in breastfeeding.’

Previous studies were unclear on whether or not the wealth of the breastfeeding mothers had any influence on the intelligence of their children. The current study took this into consideration. As such, it was found that mothers from more affluent groups were more informed about breastfeeding and much more likely to breastfeed for an extended period of up to three or more months after birth.

I’m biased towards breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life, but I’m coming from a society where breastfeeding was the norm rather than the exception. Unfortunately, as society changed and more women joined the workforce and with the influences of other cultures, many Jamaican women seemed to be shifting from strictly breastfeeding. Thankfully, lately there seems to be a shift back to breastfeeding as I see and hear a lot more women talking about breastfeeding their babies from various sectors of the society.

Most Jamaican women, especially those from the so-called lower-class have no hang-ups about breastfeeding and a drive through some communities will reveal two or three mothers sitting comfortably on the sidewalks in conversation while breastfeeding.

One thing that the study has confirmed that is hardly debatable is the fact that breastfeeding does have multiple benefits.

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