Research questions link between breastfeeding and child intelligence

A study in the BMJ has shown that breastfeeding has little or no effect on a child's intelligence.

The relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence has been studied since 1929, but the link has remained unclear. Many of the studies have also failed to take in to account other confounding factors such as maternal intelligence.

The researchers of this new study, which was the largest ever and involved 5,475 children and their mothers in the USA, re-examined the effect of breastfeeding whilst taking into account the IQ of the mothers. Comparison was also made between siblings within the sample who were not breastfed.

When taken in isolation, the results of the study seemed to indicate that breastfeeding had a beneficial effect on the child’s intelligence. However, when other factors were considered – maternal intelligence, home environment and socio-economic status - breastfeeding made less than half a point difference to the children’s intelligence scores.

Re-analysis of the data with maternal intelligence omitted showed that the effects of breastfeeding were at least double. This result highlighted that failing to take in to account the mother’s intelligence can overestimate the effects of breastfeeding.

The authors emphasise that breastfeeding remains important for healthy growth and development in infants, and has advantages for the mother and the child.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published


NICE moves CVD advice closer to QOF and updates treatment escalation options

NICE draft guidance on cardiovascular disease backs a new target for lipid levels...

GP surgery sign

GP alert system shows practices under major pressure

General practice has moved up to an 'OPEL 3' pressure rating nationally with two...

Podcast: How making your practice a better place to work can improve patient care

Sheffield GP Dr Ben Allen explains how focusing on staff and improving his practice's...

X-ray sign

Spike in TB cases prompts public health warning

Cases of TB in England have risen by 7% compared with last year, prompting a warning...

COVID-19 vaccine

GPs demand investigation as winter vaccine 'mismanagement' risks patient safety

GP leaders in England have demanded an investigation into 'mismanagement' of this...

Medical centre sign

GP 'engineering' fears as small practice contracts offered on branch-only basis

GP leaders have raised concerns over the 'engineering' of general practice after...