From Our Archives
Do Breast Fed Babies Do Better?
Ability and Academic Achievement Enhanced?
In the debate over whether babies should be on the
breast or bottle, few points may prove as persuasive as the results
of a new study indicating that breastfeeding is associated with
detectable increases in child cognitive ability and educational
The study was reported in the January 1998 issue of the journal
Pediatrics that is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The report is by L. John Horwood and David M. Fergusson from the
Christchurch School of Medicine in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The study looked at the relationships between the duration of breast
feeding --- how long children were on the breast -- and their
cognitive ability and academic achievement over a period of 8-18
years. The data were collected in the course of an 18-year
longitudinal study beginning at birth of over 1000 children.
From birth to a year of age, information was collected on maternal
breast feeding practices. Then, over the years the children were
tested on a range of measures of cognitive and academic performance.
These included "measures of child intelligence quotient; teacher
ratings of school performance; standardized tests of reading
comprehension, mathematics, and scholastic ability; pass rates in
school leaving examinations; and leaving school without
Longer breastfeeding was found to be associated with consistent and
statistically significant increases in:
- Intelligence quotient of the children tested at age 8-9
- Reading comprehension tested at age10-13 years
- Mathematical ability tested at age10-13 years
- Scholastic ability tested at age10-13 years
- Teacher ratings of reading and mathematics at 8-12 years and
- Higher levels of attainment in school final examinations.