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Breast milk and IQ

4th October 2006

04102006_breastfeeding1.jpgA new scientific study suggests that breast fed baby's are smarter, but only because their mothers are.

The researchers found that 75 per cent of the difference in IQ between breast-fed and bottle-fed babies could be accounted for by inherited features. Mothers of breast-fed babies tend to be more highly educated, more intelligent and to provide a more stimulating home environment. Breastfed babies also tend to have mothers who are older.

Taking into account all these factors, breastfeeding made less than half a point's difference in the intelligence scores.

The study is based on data from the USA, using the breastfeeding history and IQs of 5,000 children and 3,000 mothers. Looking at families where one child was breastfed and the other wasn't also confirmed that breastfeeding made no difference to IQ.

The study was carried out by the Medical Research Council and University of Edinburgh and published online by the British Medical Journal. The researchers stressed that there were still many advantages to breastfeeding; it boosts the baby's immune system and protects against infections, reducing the risk of asthma and eczema in childhood.

Rosie Dodds, of the National Childbirth Trust, said however that the study was not conclusive. She referred to a study in the Philippines, where poorer women are more likely to breastfeed, which showed that breastfed children were likely to be more intelligent.

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