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Breast-Feeding May Increase Children’s IQ? Really?

One of the latest reports on breast-feeding is an example of scientists who really don’t have much to say. This study appeared in Scientific American online, reporting that children who were breast-fed had a higher IQ than those who weren’t.

The details are that the children were studied over the course of seven years, and there were a sizable number of them – 468 to be exact.  You have to give them credit for following that many kids for seven years!

If the child was breast-fed for 3 months, their IQ was 2.1 points higher than those on the bottle. If the child was breast-fed for longer than six months, their IQ was almost double that at 3.8 points higher than those not breast-fed.

mother and baby

Let’s Consider the Basic Facts on IQ Here

This is questionable research at best. First of all, an IQ difference of 2 or 3.8 points really isn’t that much different from the control group. Are our standards so low that we have to celebrate an increase of 2 points in IQ?

IQ is measured on a standardized scale, and an IQ of 90 to 100 is average intelligence. If the IQ jumps to above 130, the person is very smart while an IQ of less than 70 is usually considered mental retardation. Why is this research even being reported? An increase in IQ of 10 points or 15 points is newsworthy, not an increase of one to 4 points.

 

Maybe It’s the Omega 3 Fats in Breast Milk That Matters Most

In another study, Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that when moms increased their DHA intake by 100 mg/day, the IQ of the child increased by 0.13. DHA is a type of omega 3 fat.

The EFSA Scientific Panel recommends up to 200 mg DHA for pregnant women while other health care experts recommend up to 300 mg per day. Based on this amount, the increase in IQ would be only 0.13 times three or an increase of less than 1 IQ point.

Sometimes healthcare experts recommend that patients – not necessarily moms – take up to 900 mg. Even still, the IQ increase if the moms were taking 900 mg is still not the IQ of a superbaby we are all looking for.

 

Breast Milk Contains Fats Essential for Brain Development

DHA is essential for the developing brain, and especially vision. DHA is found in breast milk along with other essential fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins, protein, over 200 different types of sugars, up to 600 different probiotic species, digestive enzymes and hormones. Breast milk also contains immune system factors such as antibodies and white blood cells to fight infections and complexes that kill tumor cells.

Unfortunately, the study again is really another example of a research fiasco, and perhaps the results were only reported as a way to explain to the funding department.

Interestingly, when scientists got a little ‘smarter’, they evaluated more than just IQ in infants who consumed breast milk in another study. This time they found that the infants had better motor maturity and were more alert. Now we’re seeing more evidence of effects of breast milk on babies’ health.

Part of the controversy about all this research about breast milk and IQ involves common sense, the experts say.  Moms that touch their children may improve the relationship between mother and baby. Perhaps the interaction between the two humans contributes to the ‘greater IQ’ instead of the breast milk itself. That’s what the scientists are saying at Bar-Ilan University in Israel in the psychology department.

 

Is The Scientific Method the Best Way to Evaluate Breast Milk and IQ?

So far, no food company has been able to duplicate the composition of human breast milk. Isn’t it conceivable that all the good things that ‘spontaneously appear’ in breast milk (as the evolutionists would like us to believe) may somehow contribute to the enormous task of developing that the brain has to go through in early life?

There is the theory of brain neuroplasticity that scientists are agreeing on now – the concept that the brain responds to its environment and changes its neuron structure and neuron matrices to adapt. Babies grow up to children, then teens and all along the way, the automatic functioning of the brain that results in its constant molding and shaping within itself is possibly the stimulus for the IQ development.

Maybe the bottom line is that looking at breast milk and IQ from a scientific narrow-mindedness will never really work and lead us closer to the real truth. What do you think?

 

 

Resources

Feldman R, Eidelman AI. Direct and indirect effects of breast milk on the neurobehavioral and cognitive development of premature infants. Dev Psychobiol. 2003 Sep;43(2):109-19.

Cohen JT, Bellinger DC, Connor WE, Shaywitz BA. A quantitative analysis of prenatal intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cognitive development.  Am J Prev Med. 2005 Nov;29(4):366-74.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=surety-bond-breast-feeding

http://www.dhababy.com/Pregnancy/DHAPregnancyFactSheet.aspx

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2 thoughts on “Breast-Feeding May Increase Children’s IQ? Really?”

  1. ok lets look at this realistically.

    It is an educated mature woman who can afford to put her career on hold to stay home and breast feed her baby. Not a taco bell cashier highschool drop out!

    I believe that our nations tendency to view breast feeding as a puritanical no-no is highly counter intuitive. But this current fad that breast milk is a cure all is very dangerous! My grand sons mother is convinced that her lactose will cure things like e-coli or anthrax!

    Lets stop inflating the value of something thats our current social agenda!

  2. I do not agree that 4 IQ points is insignificant. If, as you say, the average person has an IQ of ~95 points, then that’s a 4.2 percent increase in intelligence, isn’t it? Multiply that by three or four generations, and you’ve got a pretty hefty intelligence increase over only a century or less. I’m guessing that there may be some kind of limit to the benefit though, as wouldn’t the average third world citizen have passed up us bottle-fed Westerners by now?

    I’d be interested to know if there’s an even greater increase in IQ for children who are breastfed for two, three, or even four years. The worldwide average length for breastfeeding is 4.2 years. Apparently it’s just us Westerners who stop at only a few months. When will the scientists test the IQ’s of children who’ve breastfed for four or more years? Seeing if there’s a benefit to that length of time would be really interesting. However, if it turns out that it’s really great for children’s health, working Western women might not take too kindly to the results. Perhaps that’s why nobody looks into it!

    I look forward to somebody doing a truly comprehensive and long term study. Though if a giant corporation can’t figure out how to make money off of breastfeeding, there probably won’t be much research money available for it!

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