Sorry, Moms, Breastfeeding Isn't Making Your Babies Smarter


Because moms can't seem to get enough of the debate over whether or not breastfeeding will get their babies into Harvard, scientists are once again studying the effect nursing your newborn will have on his or her IQ down the road. Are you ready for this one? The word from researchers at University College Dublin is there's not a single shred of evidence that breastfeeding is going to make your baby smarter.


Now, now, it's not all bad news for breastfeeding moms. The study published in Pediatrics does say there's a link between breastfeeding for at least six months and a reduction in hyperactive behavior among the toddler set -- although the effects appear to diminish after age 5. Not to mention some parents actually enjoy breastfeeding -- it can work best for their schedule, you don't have to run to the grocery store to buy formula, and on and on. There are plenty of good reasons to breastfeed.

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But, as one of those moms who failed miserably at breastfeeding despite my best efforts, I can't help but let loose a big fat sigh of relief on this one ... and not because I'm worried about my child. Not anymore, anyway. She's now 11 and makes top marks in school, where no one looking at her can tell that she spent her first two weeks of life wailing at the top of her lungs while her desperate mother traded off nursing and pumping every other hour in a futile attempt to amp up milk production. She sits beside a little boy whose mom makes no bones about the fact that she didn't even try to breastfeed, a little boy whom she sees as one of her biggest challengers for "top of the class" grade status.

But, but, but it's purely anecdotal that these two children who weren't breastfed happen to be high achievers in school, right?

Yes, it is. But so is much of the "evidence" touted by the "I'm nursing my future doctor" parents out there. Numerous studies that have claimed a link between nursing and IQ have big "buts" that don't make it into the headlines, such as genetics and socioeconomic status. As this latest study shows, moms with higher IQs or more financial means tend to have better access to the support system required to sustain long-term breastfeeding. Of course that means their babies have the potential of higher IQ hardwired into their DNA and access to more educational resources in their crucial early years.

And yet, we keep seeing the claim pop up that nursing makes babies smarter.


Because there's no easier way to prey upon a mother's guilt than by accusing her of ruining her child's future. Think about it ... we all want to raise our kids to be happy, healthy, and successful. But while we can see tangible benefits such as a baby's sleeping better or being less gassy (both things some moms say breastfeeding offers over formula) right away, there's no way to measure future success out of the starting gate. We're all fumbling around in the dark, and we're all terrified of screwing up.

Telling a mom she's not doing all she can to build a baby's brain is tantamount to saying, "Your kid's going to suck at life."

Most parents will do anything they can to prevent that, often going to ridiculous lengths to make breastfeeding work ... even when it hurts mom, dad, and, yes, sometimes baby.

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But here, once again, scientists have shown us it's all a ruse. Breastfeeding your baby into an esteemed institution of higher learning is about as futile as the two weeks I spent pumping and nursing my way into exhaustion in a round-the-clock cycle that did not increase my milk production but did send me spiraling into postpartum depression.

If you want to breastfeed, go ahead. Do it. There are countless science-supported reasons to nurse. But if you don't want to breastfeed or can't, just remember, your kid may still end up at the top of her sixth grade class or, who knows, a Yale valedictorian.

And if she's not ... it's not because she didn't get enough breast milk. 

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