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Study Links Breastfeeding to High Grades, College Entry

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Yahoo News: Breastfed babies seem more likely to do well at high school and to go on to attend college than infants raised on a bottle, according to a new U.S. study.

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Professors Joseph Sabia from the American University and Daniel Rees from the University of Colorado Denver based their research on 126 children from 59 families, comparing siblings who were breastfed as infants to others who were not.

By comparing siblings, the study was able to account for the influence of a variety of difficult-to-measure factors such as maternal intelligence and the quality of the home environment.

The study, published in the Journal of Human Capital, found that an additional month of breastfeeding was associated with an increase in high school grade point averages of 0.019 points and an increase in the probability of college attendance of 0.014.

"The results of our study suggest that the cognitive and health benefits of breastfeeding may lead to important long-run educational benefits for children," Sabia, a professor of public policy who focuses on health economics, said in a statement.

"But this is just a start. Much work remains to be done to establish a definitive causal link."

Sabia said the study, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, was the first to use sibling data in order to examine the effect of breastfeeding on high school completion and college attendance.

"By focusing on differences between siblings, we can rule out the possibility that family-level factors such as socioeconomic status are driving the relationship between having been breastfed and educational attainment," said Rees, an economics professor.

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
anonymous June 15, 2009, 11:16 AM

I’m pro-breastfeeding and am currently still nursing a 1 1/2 year old, but even I get sick of seeing all these studies that “prove” your kid will be “more likely” to do something better if you breastfeed. Why not spend the money to give people that can’t afford it some support? Like one-on-one time with a lactation consultant, or to make pumps and supplies available to mother’s who can’t afford it. Everyone knows in the long run breastfeeding is cheaper, but if you have to leave your child for a few hours a day you NEED a pump. That’s a big upfront cost that many can’t handle. But low income mother’s can easily get a hold of reduced cost if not free formula and they can afford that “small” expense every week instead of a couple hundred at one time.

Emma June 15, 2009, 11:52 AM

Very well said Anonymous. I completely agree with you. I was able to Breastfeed for a year while working full time and pumps are not cheap. Everyone knows the benefits of BFing so why spend money on studies to state the obvious and put that money to work towards helping breastfeeding.

Anonymous June 15, 2009, 1:12 PM

I would be very interested to see how this “study” conducted it’s sampling and overall design.

My hubby and I were both formula fed. We both have 2 advanced degrees post baccalaureate. Our children were also exclusively formula fed. They both were read to since the day they were born, smothered with love and attention, attended an exceptional preschool and are both flourishing in school.

The best thing you can do for your babies is give them a loving, nourishing home and a world filled with positive possibilities and reasonable, consistent limits.

Beth June 15, 2009, 1:18 PM

Look at the numbers they’re talking about: .019 increase in GPA and .014 increase in likelihood of attending college. That’s not even a SINGLE PERCENTAGE POINT of difference.

I’m sorry but that doesn’t “prove” that breastfeeding makes smarter kids who are more likely to attend college. It proves that some scientists are desperate to make a point and willing to take in slight shift in the statistics to “prove” they’re right.

Anonymous June 15, 2009, 1:54 PM

Amen, Beth! This stuff is nuts and just fuels the fire of those who are unnaturally fixated on other people’s life choices.

Maddie June 15, 2009, 2:21 PM

This is ridiculous.

Yet another recent study (from the British Medical Journal) of 332 sibling pairs where one sibling was breastfed and the other was not revealed that the FORMULA-fed sibling had an IQ that was 0.63 points higher than the breastfed sibling. The authors didn’t bother to point out that this result was the opposite of the expected pattern.

I doubt that formula had anything to do with the I.Q. difference, just as breastfeeding has nothing to do with a child’s performance in school. There are other factors responsible for those outcomes. But I am so sick and tired of the fear-mongering that the media promotes. As long as parents feed their children and shower them with love, THAT’S what matters!

anonymous June 15, 2009, 3:40 PM

Maddie you are right, the media blows everything out of proportion… not a night goes by where the nightly news headline doesn’t read something to the effect of “what are you doing that could be killing your child?” or “What your employer isn’t telling you that’s putting your health at risk”. Breastfeeding is just another one of those items. I breastfeed because I feel it’s the best nutrition for my child and I feel it does help fight off illness. But some children are naturally going to be more sick than others, so I’m sure there’s formula fed babies that are healthier than mine. I think these studies are a joke, there’s hardly a difference in IQ or education level, even comparing siblings is skewed, because there’s always IQ differences in siblings, and parents may have unknowingly devoted more time to one of the children over the other. Stop wasting money and study something worthwhile.

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