Breastfeeding doesn't make kids smarter

But, this study will likely come as a relief to mothers who face challenges breastfeeding and worry about the effects on their children's brains in the long run. Children who were breastfed for at least six months were less hyperactive at three years, but that effect wore off by the time they were five.

The study authors say their findings suggest "that the earlier observed benefit from breastfeeding may not be maintained once children enter school". After matching, there were no statistically significant differences on any outcomes at age 5.

"The main challenge facing researchers who seek to examine the impact of breastfeeding on child outcomes is an inability to randomly assign individual mothers to breastfeed or not", wrote Lydia Furhman in an accompanying editorial in Pediatrics. Orosz was not involved in the study. Once socio-economic factors such as education and income are accounted for, the differences between those children who were breastfed and those who weren't are negligible. "I do have to say that I found the results a little bit surprising because we already have so many studies showing very clearly that breastfeeding does have an impact on IQ and cognitive functioning".

"Breastfeeding reduces all-cause and infection-related child mortality, sudden infant death syndrome related mortality, and maternal breast cancer and cardiovascular risk; the effect of breast milk is dose-dependent, with exclusivity and longer duration increasing benefits", noted the research.

They did this by separating participating mothers into two groups: the first group was part of an intervention program that encouraged prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding, and the other without such a program and encouragement.

A new study casts doubt on whether breastfed-kids are smarter than their formula-fed peers, though it does note there are benefits to breastfeeding babies including reduced hyperactivity. "While most studies have been based on association, however, we can now make a causal inference between breastfeeding and intelligence - because of the randomized design of our study".

Of course, the new study does have some limitations. Standardized tests were also used to assess the childrens' skills and teachers' reports on their behaviours were included too.

In the United States, 81.1 percent of infants born in 2013 were breastfeeding at six months while 30.7 percent of babies were breastfeeding at 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and intelligence has always been a popular and hotly debated topic", says Dr. Michael Kramer, co-author of the McGill study, in a statement.

  • Lila Blake