Breastfeeding And IQ

Breastfeeding and IQ research study

Have you heard that a long-term study has pointed to a link between breastfeeding and intelligence? Is there really a link between breastfeeding and IQ?


The research in Brazil published in The Lancet Global Health traced nearly 3,500 babies and found those who had been breastfed for longer went on to score higher on IQ tests as adults.

I am not against research but sometimes I wish they would tell us why they are researching something in the first place together with who is funding the research and the gender balance in who is coming up with the conclusions.

Day in and day out, mums wake up to these sort of stories often after a sleep-deprived night or where they really are doing their utmost to juggle it all. In my experience, most mums question themselves constantly and make decisions with the basic idea of doing the best by their children. Such stories and the attention they get in the media do little to build self-esteem of the mum which for me is a very good thing for a child to have in their life.

If we are going to say that mums should do something, please can we ensure that funding and other resources are put in place to help them to do so?

I wanted to breastfeed but struggled to do so. I felt very bullied by some midwives. Breastfeeding hurt and I was concerned my son was not getting enough nourishment. Nobody had warned me not every mum finds it easy so I felt a failure.

When I was pregnant with my second child and a midwife told me I had a choice whether to bottle-feed or breastfeed, I felt so relieved and it made for a happier pregnancy.

Having said that, I wanted to breastfeed all my babies. I just did not feel capable and lacked support.

As for myself, I doubt I was breastfed considering the circumstances of my birth but I managed to get into Cambridge University if that is a marker of intelligence.

I have 3 children and only the one who was breastfed has learning difficulties.

For me, these facts prove nothing and I am not sure the research does either.

Apparently experts say that much more research is needed to explore any possible link between breastfeeding and intelligence.

Does it matter? Is it desirable to force every mum to breastfeed so we can have a society full of highly intelligent people? Shouldn’t the research be watertight before the media take it up and beat mums over the head with it?

Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing, Public Health England, said there was strong evidence said “PHE’s advice remains that exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months of life provides health benefits to babies.

“We recognise however, that not all mothers choose, or are able, to breastfeed and infant formula is the only alternative to breast milk for babies under 12 months old.”

Dr Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, said: “It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however this study emphasises the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.”

Janet Fyle of the Royal College of Midwives said new mothers needed breastfeeding support. Now that right there is a great link between breastfeeding and IQ!

Very interesting how it is a woman and a mum who highlights the need for support.

In conclusion, I am not a big fan of the parenting police particularly when there is still a woeful lack of support for some women who are trying to be the best mum they can be.

Do you think there is a link between breastfeeding and IQ?

Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.


  • Looking for Blue Sky

    I am totally not a fan of the parenting police and like you, the only child of mine who got any breast milk has learning difficulties, though much more severe in her case. There were lots of reasons why I didn’t breast feed, and I would not be at all impressed if anyone judges me without knowing the facts. In fact they shouldn’t be judging anyone else without walking in their shoes either x

  • Lauren

    There are too many variables – they need to be able to prove that breastfeeding was the only difference that could have caused this.

  • Glenys

    I heard this too was was angry about it. How does Brazilian culture match ours? I breastfed both mine for 7 months & 6 months & was ready to wean them after that length of time and would not have wanted to continue for a year. They didn’t need it as they only had a nighttime feed as I was weaning them & mostly for my own comfort. I got breast cancer & was incensed as I had breast fed which is supposed to protect you but apparently it only does if you breastfeed for at least a year. Stuff that!

  • Anita

    Cool, these are some nice tips and advantage of valuable Breastfeeding ! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences.

  • Ann Faust

    Dear Katie, I am sorry to hear that your breastfeeding journey wasn’t always a bed of roses. Raising children rarely, if ever, is. There are many good points on your article, but some of the points are rather dismissive and misleading. Like common belief of “I did that and I turned out alright”. It is not any different than “I didn’t vaccinate my children and they turned alright” There are millions of children who are dying as we are speaking here simply because they weren’t breastfed, it is a fact proven by WHO. So it is not as easy as you would think or black and white. For me the two most important thing on these kind of statements that I question is
    A) I am not sure you got your information (not advice) correctly, and
    B) If you never lived up to your potential fully you will never know how much better you could have been (none of us can).
    I am a healthcare provider and mother of 4. I breastfed all of my children for a very long time as we both enjoyed it very much most of the time. But it wasn’t easy and I don’t think I did it because I read X,Y or Z study. It just felt right. I whole heatedly agree that breastfeeding has no extra benefits as it is the biological norm, but there may be harm not to offer them the best possible beginning we can (that could be ample supply of breastmilk for years, only drops for few days, someone else’s donor milk). But this should never be the source of guilt.
    Of course it is always the person’s choice how to feed their baby, but these facts must be remembered. Inform yourselves with reputable and properly scientific facts, think twice and act from the heart, remember as it is your right to choose but it is also baby’s birth right to breastfeed.
    Parenting is not a easy path, I agree there is no need to judge how we are cooping with day-to-day or even hour-to-hour dilemmas of our particular families.

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