Breastfeeding ‘doesn’t boost children’s intelligence’ – Behind the Headlines – NHS Choices

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A new study followed about 8,000 babies in Ireland for five years to look at whether breastfeeding had an impact on problem solving and vocabulary (cognitive abilities), and problem behaviours.

“Scientists found tots given the boob had the same IQ at age three and five compared to bottle-fed youngsters,” The Sun reports in its own unique way.

This study has tackled the controversial question of whether there are long-term benefits of breastfeeding for cognitive ability or problem behaviours when children are older (ages three to five). Although they found very limited evidence of benefit, the authors do note that there are some other studies that have used a similar analysis but found differing results. The researchers think this could be due to slight differences in analysis.

This does highlight the difficulties in being absolutely certain whether breastfeeding has direct impact on long-term cognitive outcomes. What we can say is that, if there are differences, they do not appear to be large once other factors are taken into. This may be reassuring to women who were not able to breastfeed.

The strengths of this study include its large size, the fact that it followed participants prospectively for a long period, and took into account a large number of factors that could be influencing the link. There are some limitations. For example, they collected information on breastfeeding at nine months. In some cases mothers may not have been able to accurately remember exactly how long they breastfed for by that point, or felt pressure to report longer durations than were actually achieved.

Read the full Behind the Headlines report article here

or here for the study on which the article is based (Girard L-C, Doyle O, Tremblay RE. Breastfeeding, Cognitive and Noncognitive Development in Early Childhood: A Population Study. Pediatrics. Published online March 27 2017 )

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