Does Breastfeeding Boost IQ?
Study Shows Breastfed Kids Score Better on Some IQ Tests
WebMD News Archive
Breastfeeding and IQ: Second Opinion
Not surprisingly, a spokesman for La Leche League International, which
promotes breastfeeding, calls the new study findings "significant and
valid." Not every paper or research study has found an association, says
Lawrence M. Gartner, MD, a spokesman for the league and professor emeritus from
the University of Chicago.
"But the huge majority of them do show a positive effect -- improvement
in IQ and school performance."
"I think there is more and more evidence that points this way," says
Dennis Woo, MD, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Santa Monica UCLA
& Orthopaedic Hospital, who reviewed the study for WebMD. However, he
wonders if cultural influences may play a role since the study was conducted in
Eastern Europe, and if the same results would hold for U.S. breastfeeding
mothers. Woo also works as a consultant for formula companies.
"We can't generalize [the findings] to all populations necessarily,"
agrees Jennifer Shu, MD, an Atlanta pediatrician and author of Heading Home
with Your Newborn, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"But there is no downside [to breastfeeding]."
A slightly different interpretation of the findings is proposed by Ruth A.
Lawrence, MD, chairwoman of the academy's section on breastfeeding and a
neonatologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.
"What the study says to me is, breastfeeding does not make your child
smarter, it allows your child to reach full potential. If you have a child with
chromosomal abnormalities and Down syndrome, for instance, and breastfeed, you
are not going to make that child a genius. You are going to allow that child to
reach his full potential."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for
the first six months, suggesting mothers can continue as long as it is mutually
According to the CDC, 73.8% of U.S. mothers who gave birth in 2004 ever
breastfed. Of those, 41.5% still breastfed at six months, but just 11.3%
exclusively through six months. The data is in the Breastfeeding Report Card,
issued in 2007.
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