Does Breastfeeding really Make my Baby Smarter?

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
The decision of whether to breastfeed a newborn baby is a difficult one. Most mothers at least want to or try to feed their babies breast milk, but some are unable to for one reason or another. Some do not know how, while others do not have the time or the energy to do it. The controversy of whether a baby benefits intellectually because of breast milk has often been a sore spot among mothers who formula feed their babies, perhaps because of their staunch defense that their child is just as smart as any other kid and that the parental or teacher involvement plays a bigger role than just the breast milk factor.

Is this true, or false? How can a mother know what to do?

Most studies reveal that breastfeeding does create brighter minds in children, at least in their IQ. It does not mean that your child will become the next Einstein, but kids who were breastfed as infants do score higher in tests and get better grades at school.
Another surprising statistic reveals that the longer the infant is breastfed, the greater the intellectual advantage that can be achieved. Does this mean that you should breastfeed your baby into toddlerhood?
The age that you stop breastfeeding is entirely personal, although some mothers – in rare cases – actually keep going with the breastfeeding past the age of one, two, and even more rarely, by the age of three. There is not enough evidence to indicate why this is so, but researchers have studied hundreds of kids to come up with this relationship between breastfeeding and the relationship with the mother.

Possibilities for this include:

  • More nutrients and vitamins in vitamins, which nurture brain development.
  • DHA, which is a brain-boosting fatty acid that is critical for brain tissue, development and growth.
  • Bonding with mother helps the support the baby’s emotional development.
  • Lactose is the primary sugar in breast milk, which a person’s body breaks down into galactose and glucose. The former is an essential vitamin for brain tissue and has been shown to have one of the highest concentrations over any other species.
  • Interactions during the first two years of your child’s life help to shape the baby’s neurons, brain cells and nerves. Because breastfeeding involves the contact with the mother, it is possible that the interactions help to stimulate the baby’s brain.

Should moms who choose formula worry about having a less intelligent child?

Although breastfeeding does play a role in human intelligence, it is not the only variable. Genetics play a big role, as well as how much time is spent learning, growing and performing creative tasks. Children who have interactive parents and even those who get an earlier education sometimes can keep up with the breastfed children just fine, so one way to ramp up the baby’s ability to learn and to intensify the baby’s brain development is by reading. You can begin reading to your baby from very early on; even as young as the time they are born or while in the womb.

You can also help to supplement DHA with children’s vitamins or through a nutritious diet that is fortified with many essential ingredients for your baby’s brain. Positive home environments, role models, siblings and other variables all play a role in your child’s ability to learn.
A lot of it does have to do with parenting, teaching and school, too. One variable cannot be the only missing link, but the case for breastfeeding certainly does have a great benefit for your baby’s brain!


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