Breast-feeding is the best way to feed a baby. It lowers the risk of the baby having asthma and allergies and also reduces the risk of ear infections. Breast milk contains antibodies that provide some immunity against viruses and bacteria. But it does not appear to make your child smarter. A study conducted in Britain suggests that it has no effect on a child's IQ from up through adolescence.
The idea that breastfeeding might be able to boost intelligence levels is tentatively feasible because long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important in neurological development, are more plentiful in babies who were breastfed. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in human milk, but not in milk from animals or in baby formula. However, this study found nosignificant difference between the IQs of breastfed and non-breastfed children.
In the study, researchers in Britain studied 11,582 children who were born between 1994 and 1996. About two-thirds of these babies were breast-fed, for an average of four months. The children were followed through age 16. Over those years, the researchers administered nine intelligence tests at regular intervals.
The researchers controlled for parental education, maternal age, socioeconomic status, and other variables. They found that girls who had been breastfed had a weak and statistically insignificant advantage in early life over those who had not been. This was not seen in boys. Breastfeeding was not associated with gains in IQ through adolescence for either girls or boys.
"One might understand these findings to support the notion that breastfeeding has nutritional benefits for intelligence in the first few years of life given that breastfeeding was slightly associated with early life intelligence but not with later cognitive growth. However because the observed effects were weak and at best modest, we interpret the findings as evidence for the lack of any benefits of breastfeeding on cognitive development from early life through adolescence," the study concluded.
The study was published in the online journal PLOS One. You can read it here.