Australian study finds breastfed kids smarter
It is not known precisely why, but breastfed
children tend to end up significantly smarter than those who are
bottle-fed, a major Australian study has concluded.
The 21-year study by a research team at Brisbane's
University of Queensland examined the development of 3,880 children
and found that the breastfed ones ended up with an intellectual
advantage of eight IQ points.
Team leader Jake Najman said: 'It's the difference
between being an average child and being a reasonably bright child.'
The research, published in the United States-based
Journal Of Pediatrics And Child Health, is part of a study which
began before the children were born -- during the early pregnancy of
their mothers in 1981.
Sociology Professor Najman said: 'What we're looking
at is how the health of the mother and child changes over time and
what are the factors that influence those changes.'
The mothers, 80 per cent of whom breastfed their
babies, were questioned about feeding when the babies were six
months old. Five years later, the children were given standard tests
of verbal intelligence.
Prof Najman said the results were adjusted for a
range of biological and psychosocial factors such as marital status
and economic circumstances, as well as the mother's education level
and emotional state.
Several explanations were suggested, including the
possibility that mothers who breastfeed developed a stronger
attachment with their children, thereby encouraging cognitive
Another was that omega fatty acids found in breast
milk may be giving breastfed children an intellectual advantage.
'It may also be the case that breast milk contains
more antibodies and the children who are breastfed are less likely
to get infections as young children,' Prof Najman said.
'Therefore, their development might not be as
affected by childhood infections as other children.'
The researchers analyzed data collected when the
children were 14 to test whether the advantage continued as they
aged, and are now following up by questioning them at 21 years of
'We're looking at their learning and achievements
now so we'll be able to say something about how breastfeeding might
have influenced their success in later life.'
Prof Najman stressed the research that was not aimed
at trying to make mothers who failed to breastfeed feel inadequate,
adding that many factors can influence a child's abilities.
'There will be children who have not been breastfed
who will be very bright. There will be children who have been
breastfed who aren't all that bright.
'Breastfeeding is only one of the factors that's
likely to be important. -- AFP September 2002