Mothers- and fathers-to-be are constantly bombarded by "the latest study" on the effects — both positive and negative — of breastfeeding.
And yet, the world remains fascinated by the merits of mothers' milk on the long-term development of children. Is the breast really best?
Well, a new study from Brazil, published in The Lancet, found that breastfed babies were more likely to have higher IQs, spend more time in school, and end up with higher-paying jobs.
The study began in 1982 with 5,914 infants born in Brazil. The duration of breast-feeding and the age when the babies began eating solid foods was recorded. 30 years later, researchers were able to interview and test 3,493 of the original group.
The researchers took into account a number of factors, such as maternal health and family income, but they still found that at age 30, compared with people breast-fed for a month or less, those breast-fed 12 months or more had higher IQs, more years of education, and higher monthly incomes (1,915 reais ($588) compared to 1,238 ($380) for the non-breastfed group).
They admit, however, that there are a few limiting factors: It was rare that babies in Brazil were exclusively breastfed, and because it was a purely observational study, other unmeasured factors — like the accuracy of recall — could have influenced the results.
In fact, another recent study questions the idea that IQ and breastfeeding are linked: A researcher in the Netherlands said that other variables, including sociodemographic factors, parental lifestyle, and, most importantly, maternal IQ, may explain the connection.
Ultimately, though, she agrees that "breastfeeding is important for overall optimum growth of children," and, according to this most recent study, their wallets, too.