Breastfeeding and IQ – another stick to beat parents with

March 18, 2015 Published by

Media today is constantly bombarding us with statements like “breast is best”, telling us that breastfeeding babies makes them smarter later in life.

This is a dangerous statement to make.

Why have I heard it on the radio at least three times before 9am? Seen it again on the front page of the BBC website?

This is not news. It is not fact.

It is a theory from a single study in Brazil that, by it’s own account, recognises the multitude of factors that influence a child’s IQ! [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365917/]

The result? Millions of mothers wrongly feeling either smug or inadequate.

Back in the day

Ten years ago, parents were advised to breastfeed for three months and there wasn’t believed to be much benefit after that. All the mothers of teenagers who followed that advice are now left feeling guilty that they haven’t done the best for their children.

As do those many fabulous parents of younger children who, for whatever reason, did not breastfeed their children for a whole year.

The mother

I’m not disputing the growing body of evidence that highlights the many benefits of breastfeeding, but these benefits can’t be taken in isolation.

I don’t know of any mother in the last twenty years who could breastfeed, enjoyed breastfeeding and whose baby was thriving on being breastfed just give up because she couldn’t be bothered.

If people don’t breastfeed their baby, there is a reason, even if that reason is ‘just’ the mother’s happiness.

What none of these studies show is what happens to mothers and infants if they are forced to breastfeed against their wishes.

For some, the child would simply not thrive and may suffer malnutrition. For others it may exacerbate conditions, such as Post Natal Depression.

Conclusion

The best way to raise healthy, bright children is for parents to feel confident and empowered to make informed decisions.

Parents should be supported rather than judged when they make decisions about what is best for them, their baby and the rest of their family.

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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer

2 Comments

Thanks for your take on this new study.

Why are there only two alternatives, “feeling smug or guilty?” What if we encourage parents (everyone really) to be responsible for their feelings, own their experiences & learn from others? How far would all *that* go towards to helping parents feel, “confident, empowered to make informed decisions and supported rather than judged,” in their parenting experiences?

I look forward to a dialog starting with the answers to these questions.

March 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm | mama24-7

Smug and Guilty are only two possible emotions in response to statements such as this. I completely agree that increased understanding of our own emotions and responsibility for feeling, words and actions would be good for everyone. Emotional literacy is really important and something I don’t think we focus on enough in our children – especially in the curriculum but if we don’t start teaching it to children we can’t expect to have a society where parents will feel supported rather than judged. Thanks for your interest in this.

Dr Amanda Gummer

March 20, 2015 at 7:56 am | Fundamentally-Children-Social-Media

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