A new study from Brazil shows that breastfeeding makes babies smarter, raising IQ by an average of four points, which translates as longer in education and better careers.
Sounds reasonable, right? Everyone has heard that breast is best, and it’s good for the baby’s brain. It’s logical that breastfeeding translates into more education and better careers.
So why has the internet gone mad? Why are the newspapers full of people screaming, “I was bottle-fed and I’m fine”?
The format of the study was good, following 7000 babies from birth to age 30. They examined how the babies were fed, and how long breastfeeding was continued for. They confounded for social-economic status, mother’s education and as many other factors as possible, and examined the children’s IQ and level of education at various stages. By the end of the study, 68% of the original babies were still party of it.
The results were consistent. Longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with higher IQ. That was it. There was no judgement, no preaching, no condemnation. Just a finding. Similar to the sort of study which finds that people who smoke are more likely to suffer from cancer. But the internet went nuts.
“We’re being judged. It’s another ploy to make mothers feel bad. That’s right, guilt us for doing the best we can. It’s our choice how we feed our babies, how dare you imply we are doing it wrong? It’s those breastfeeding nazis behind it, trying to bully us into breastfeeding.”
The newspapers were suddenly awash with headlines like, “I’m an award-winning author and I was bottle-fed.” Which, by the way, has the same standard of credibility as, “I smoke and I don’t have lung cancer”.
The interesting thing is that the frenzy is all coming from formula feeding mothers. The breastfeeders are not out there crowing, this is stuff they already knew. But now that there is (more) good evidence that breast and bottle are not equal choices, the bottle feeders are in a hysterical tizzy, claiming that it’s a conspiracy to make them feel bad and take away their right to choose.