Breastfed Boys Are Smarter

Sasha Brown-Worsham

In news that is bound to infuriate some, a new study shows that boys who are breastfed through six months actually do better in school at age 10 than those boys who drank formula.

No big shock there, sorry to say. Countless studies have touted the positive effects of breastfeeding and most moms who read anything about parenting already know them. The researchers in this case say the same:

"Breast-feeding should be promoted for both boys and girls for its positive benefits," said study leader Wendy Oddy, a researcher at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Australia.

So, yes, breast is best. It's best as long as mom and baby agree on that, as long as it goes well, and as long as mom has adequate support from her spouse/partner and others. These studies do not lie, but do they make those who didn't choose breastfeeding or otherwise couldn't feel bad? 

Maybe they do. But maybe those who didn't have boys could find some hope in this study, too. According to the research:

Babies who were mainly breast-fed for six months or longer had higher academic scores on standardized tests than those breast-fed fewer than six months. But the outcome varied by gender, and the improvements were only significant from a statistical point of view for the boys. The boys had better scores in math, reading, spelling and writing if they were breast-fed six months or longer. Girls breast-fed for six months or longer had a small but statistically insignificant benefit in reading scores.

Interesting. So all that work I did breastfeeding my poor eating daughter to a year was for naught? The researchers say moms of daughters shouldn't be discouraged by the study by any means:

"Because we know the constituents of human milk are so important for brain development, I would not be the least bit discouraged [about] breast-feeding a girl by such data," added Dr. Ruth Lawrence, director of the Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Study Center at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York.

But why boys? Researchers speculate that it's because boys need their mommies more (see, I already knew this!) and cite a number of studies that have found that boys need maternal attention and encouragement more than girls in order to develop cognitively. Since breastfeeding forces that interaction, it stands to reason.

Whatever the reason, it's still clear that human breast milk, preferably that made by mom herself, is the clear winner in the food wars given all other factors are equal. Even if it hurts to hear, we can't really argue with the facts.

Did you breastfeed your boy?

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