Breastfed Babies Are Smarter But That Doesn't Mean Formula-Fed Babies Are Dumb

breastfeedingAnother day, another study on the benefits of breastfeeding released. New research from Brown University has shown that breast milk boosts brain development in babies by up to 30 percent. Babes who are exclusively breastfed for at least three months apparently can have extra growth in the parts of the brain that control language, emotion, and understanding.

Scientists took brain scans of the babies who had been fed a diet of breast milk from very early on and compared them with those who had been fed formula. The results showed that babies fed breast milk alone had the quickest growth in the tissues packed with nerve fibers that link different parts of the brain that are used for learning. The babies who were fed formula had less of these tissues.

But! By no means does that mean babies who are fed formula are dumb! Not for a minute!

After reading about the study, I instinctively went down to the comments section, knowing some type of war would have broken out, as this is typically what happens after an article of this nature -- and lo and behold, it had! Mamas who gave their little ones formula out of either necessity or sheer desire seemed to be upset at yet another article/study that claims that breastfed babies are the world's smartest creatures. And it's hard to blame them -- sometimes, it can feel like everyone has it out for formula feeders! But here's the thing, formula mamas: Your babies are smart, too! Really smart! Other things go into a child's brain development. Sure, there are many studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding. But be your child's teacher; spend time showing them how things work; engage them. And don't waste time worrying about how breastfeeding didn't work out. That will do nothing whatsoever for your child's development.

When these breastfeeding studies come out, they're not meant to shame non-breastfeeding moms (though, yes, some do turn it into that). Every baby is different, and external factors -- IE, parents -- play huge roles in children's development, as well. So, don't get down, formula feeders. And don't misconstrue any of these studies. Just because your little one wasn't breastfed doesn't mean they're dumb. (And deep down, I think you already know that.)

Did you breast or formula feed?


Image via shingleback/Flickr

baby first year, breastfeeding


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nonmember avatar trina

I breastfeed my 12 week old exclusively. Same thing with my son, he will be starting kindergarden Aug 2 in the honors classroom :) never been to preschool either.

worki... workingmama86

Well, that's very interesting. Both of my children were bottle fed, my niece and nephew were bottle fed as well, and all four are very smart. Both of the boys are in advanced classes in school. My other niece and nephew were breastfed and they are very smart too... 

nonmember avatar Em

This sounds so condescending.

I never for a moment thought that my formula fed twins will be "dumb" or that their exclusively breastfed siblings would be exceptionally smarter than them.

Your tone is offensive, was that your intention?

nonmember avatar Clarissa

Remember people. This means the babys brain grew 30% more than it already was. so your baby could have had that much power in that part of the brain already, but their baby's brain was smaller and grew. Plus to the exactly do you measure smart. Hitting milestones early? That's DNA. book smart? Doesn't do much good if the kid is dumber than a rock in real life? Street smart? on the other hand, that's not going to do much good if they don't get an education.

kelti... kelticmom

My four year old son was formula fed, and he reads on a second grade level. I don't believe the way you feed a baby measures their intelligence.

the3Rs the3Rs

My 3 nephews were exclusively breastfed.  They are all C-D students.  2 of them have a speech impediment.

I have 3 sons.  All were formula fed.  They are all A-B students with no impediiments of any kind.

Sooo....yea.  This doesn't really hold water at all.  Their intelligence isn't determined by breast milk or formula.

nonmember avatar Anowscara

Formulas get better over the years based on studies like this. Hopefully this will help the formula companies make their formula even better for babies. There will always be babies who need formula for a variety of reasons, and I hope studies like this are used to make it the best food it can be!

lulou lulou

My breastfed babies are so smart that their breastmilk manufacturer is sending them and covering all the costs, transportation, and even lunch, to science camp next week.  To study the brain even!

miche... micheledo

People seem to not realize that you can have an intelligent, super smart child that is formula fed. He/she is probably even smarter then many breastfed babies. But the fact remains, IF you breastfeed you do give your child a better start at their brain development. Chances are, an intelligent formula fed baby would be smarter if breastfed.

And that's ok. Babies that are fed well and regularly are more intelligent then a malnourished child. It is just a scientific fact. Breastmilk IS the best thing for ababy ,butby no means does that mean there is no hope for a formula fed child or their mom is a failure.

In fact, I don't see why a mom who formula feeds can't encourage a new mom to breastfeed - even thoug hshe didn't do it. We should ALL encourage moms to breastfeed, bit recognize that everyone gets to make their own choice.


Well said, micheledo!


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