Can breastfeeding and intelligence really be linked?

The benefits of breastfeeding are encouraged by the medical community even before a woman becomes pregnant. In fact, the World Health Organization feels so strongly about breastfeeding that it passed a law banning advertisements for breastmilk substitutes in 37 countries.

While most mummies are aware of the numerous benefits of breastmilk, the link between breastfeeding and a child’s intelligence later in life only became apparent thanks to a recent study.

Breastfeeding can increase intelligence

An editorial written by Dimitri Christakis, “Breastfeeding and Cognition, Can IQ Tip the Scale?” suggests that there is indeed a very strong correlation between the two. This new study made headlines recently after it was discovered that feeding a baby exclusively on breastmilk for at least six months will increase his IQ. It suggests that intelligence could increase by up to four points by the time they go to school.

RELATED: Study shows breastfeeding keeps you heart-healthy 

Many of the previous studies conducted on the link between breastfeeding and intelligence have come under scrutiny . For instance, they didn’t take socio-economic factors into consideration, or the overall intelligence of the mother herself.

Other studies did not take into account the importance of how long a mother breastfeeds her child. The varying lengths of time that children are breastfed can give misleading results. In studies conducted today, researchers take into account all of these factors.

Further evidence

One study, published in the JAMA Paediatrics Journal, looked at more than 1 300 babies. Mothers were interviewed extensively on their background, and how long they chose to breastfeed their baby. Intelligence tests were also conducted on the mothers.  In addition, researchers observed the women closely so they were able to find out about the child’s environment.

RELATED: What you should know when deciding whether to breastfeed 

Find out how researchers measured the intelligence of the children on the next page…