March 28, 2017
New parents have undoubtedly heard the pro-breastfeeding slogan "breast is best," which encourages breastfeeding over formula feeding and is often punctuated by a slew of medical findings leaning overwhelmingly in favor of the former.
But a new longitudinal study involving thousands of preschool-aged children who were fed both ways suggests that at least in one area – smarts – breastfeeding alone doesn’t appear to have much of an impact.
The study was conducted in Ireland and involved about 7,500 children at the ages of 3 and 5 years who had been tracked since birth with a goal of investigating the impact of breastfeeding on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.
The findings, published this month by the journal Pediatrics, show the children who were breastfed for at least six months didn’t have larger vocabularies or superior problem-solving skills compared to those who were fed formula. The kids involved in the study scored the same regardless of their early food source. The only exception was that the breastfed children were found to be less hyper.
The study is being widely reported on, likely because there's a lot of controversy over the push to encourage parents to breastfeed.
Still, medical professionals are reiterating the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to exclusively breastfeed babies for the first six months, and preferably for the first year of life, still stands.
An editorial published alongside the study in Pediatrics, titled, "Breastfeeding: What do we know, and where do we go from here," also points out that there are other health benefits to breastfeeding to be considered in light of the study's findings, including that breast milk has been found to boost children's immunity, reduce the risk of obesity and, for mom, lower the odds of being diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer.
Read more on the study here.