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BYU researchers: IQ boosts among breastfed babies due to other factors

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Posted at 3:34 PM, Feb 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-27 17:34:34-05

PROVO, Utah – Several studies indicate breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests and do better in school—but a recent a study suggests those children may be doing well for other reasons.

According to a news release from Brigham Young University, sociologists at the school have pinpointed two parenting skills that are likely to account for the higher IQ and school performance among children: responding to children’s emotional cues and reading to children starting at 9 months of age.

Ben Gibbs; the lead author of the study titled “Breastfeeding, Parenting, and Early Cognitive Development”; said mothers who breastfeed are more likely to do both of those things.

“It’s really the parenting that makes the difference,” Gibbs said in the news release. “Breastfeeding matters in others ways, but this actually gives us a better mechanism and can shape our confidence about interventions that promote school readiness.”

Renata Forste, a BYU professor, was also an author on the study, which is slated for the March issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

The study indicates that parents who improve their sensitivity to their child’s emotional cues and who read to their children could “yield 2-3 months’ worth of brain development by age 4 (as measured by math and reading readiness assessments).”

“Because these are four-year-olds, a month or two represents a non-trivial chunk of time,” Gibbs said in the release. “And if a child is on the edge of needing special education, even a small boost across some eligibility line could shape a child’s educational trajectory.”

The authors used national data that followed 7,500 mothers and their children from birth to 5 years of age. The data looked at various components of parenting, including the two parenting skills cited by the study.

For more information, visit BYU’s website.