The connection between breastfeeding and a person’s intelligence is relative. Many mothers choose to breastfeed to bond with their baby, provide optimum nutrition and for the convenience, but the lifetime effects are increasing. Most people, researchers and doctors agree that breastfed babies are more intelligent. However, whether this intelligence carries over into adulthood has not been studied until recently.
According to the World Health Organization, the connection between breastfeeding and intelligence has been observed since as early as 1929. In a 1929 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers Carolyn Hoefer, M.A., and Crumpton Hardy, Ph.D., presented their findings when they studied 383 children in Chicago. The children were between the ages of 7 and 13 and were exclusively breastfed as babies. Researchers found those students were smarter than those who were artificially fed.
In 2014, Nutrition Journal reports a correlation between a child’s behavior, intellingence and breastfeeding. Researchers Park, et. al studied 874 Korean children and found children who were breastfed to have less Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders and higher intelligence.
Researchers in Brazil began following 6,000 breastfed babies in 1982. The babies were from various socio-economic backgrounds, so wealth was not a factor in determining whether or not these babies were breastfed. 30 years later, researchers discovered a connection between intelligence level and the duration the babies were breastfed. For example, babies who nursed for a year, scored four points high on IQ tests than babies who nursed for a month, according to the research presented in The Guardian.
3,500 of the 6,000 babies, who are now adults, agreed to participate in the study. Along with higher intelligence levels, researchers found a link between breastfeeding and education. Those who nursed, and nursed for longer durations, typically received a higher level of education. The intelligence and education levels, led to those people getting better paying jobs. Those who nursed for a year, earned approximately 100 dollars more a month than those who nursed for a month.
Arguments against whether it was the breastfeeding, the bond between mother and baby or the mother’s ability to educate and nurture her child exist. Many people feel that mother’s who choose to breastfeed have more time to spend with their baby and can enhance the child’s intelligence through the early teaching of skills.
While this argument is valid, the World Health Organization points out that breast millk contains specific cognitive-improving nutritional value. Breast milk has long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Two of these have a direct effect on brain function, growth and size: docosahexanoic acid, DHA, and arachidonic acid, AA. Breastfed babies have an increase in brain volume and white matter which shows that breast milk directly alters brain function and cognitive thinking.
Many studies have examined the link between breastfeeding and intelligence. Even when other factors are removed such as early stimulation by the mother and improved health habits taught by the parents, breastfed children still tested at a higher IQ level than children who were not nursed.
Breastfeeding is one of the factors that contributes to a person’s intelligence, educational level and overall earnings. Studies show the longer a mother nurses, the better her child’s response. Not all women are successful at breastfeeding, however, and need support from groups found through local hospitals and doctor’s offices. Mothers should try to breastfeed for as long as possible, with the goal to nurse for at least six months, according to the World Health Organization.