Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Breastfeeding for Longer Periods Said to Increase IQ

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Aug. 30, 2001 -- If milk does a body good, breast milk makes a baby smart.

That's the conclusion of a study of 345 Scandinavian children and their mothers. Babies who were breastfed for more than six months scored higher on intelligence tests given at 13 months and again at age 5 than babies breastfed for less than three months.

Breast milk is already credited with the ability to boost a baby's developing immune system, protect babies from infections, and reduce the risk for diseases like diabetes. Because breast milk is easier on the baby's digestive tract than packaged formulas, breastfed babies are also less likely to be colicky.

Norwegian pediatrician Thorstein Vik, MD, PhD, says that he thinks "essential fatty acids and growth factors" contained in human milk may explain the IQ advantage he found in his study. Vik is with the department of community medicine at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

Carol Huotare, a board-certified lactation consultant and spokeswoman for the breastfeeding advocacy group La Leche League International in Schaumburg, Ill., agrees that it is probably nutrition, not nurturing, that explains the breast milk-intelligence link. For example, formula makers are now adding fatty acids found in breast milk to their products.

But Vik and Huotare both say that the strong bond that forms between a mother and a breastfeeding infant probably also helps a child's cognitive development.

Whatever the explanation, Vik says the IQ advantage is clear and says that even when other factors like the mother's age, intelligence, education, and smoking are factored in, duration of breastfeeding tips the IQ scale. He reports his findings in the British medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

For breastfeeding proponents like Huotare, the new study is just one more piece of evidence to be used in the campaign to encourage American women to breastfeed their babies. In Scandinavian countries breastfeeding is the norm, but in the U.S. only about two-thirds of women try breastfeeding right after delivery, and six weeks later only about a third of women are still breastfeeding.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow