Another day, another over-hyped breastfeeding study


It is a terrible thing when science is hijacked by ideology.

That’s what has happened to the science of breastfeeding, where breastfeeding proponents are falling all over themselves to “prove” that breastfeeding increases IQ. The latest paper in the genre is Infant Feeding and Childhood Cognition at Ages 3 and 7 Years; Effects of Breastfeeding Duration and Exclusivity, by Belfort et al., published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study was hyped on

Young children who were breastfed as infants scored higher on intelligence tests than formula-fed kids, and the longer and more exclusively they were breastfed, the greater the difference …

The researchers found that 7-year-olds whose moms had done any breastfeeding during the child’s first year – exclusively or in combination with formula – gained a little more than a third of a point in verbal IQ for each month of breastfeeding compared to children who were never breastfed. That means if the mom did any mix of breastfeeding for the entire 12 months, the gain would be 4.2 verbal IQ points

That sounds very impressive, but, in reality, is basically meaningless. Why?

Suppose I told you that Jane has an IQ of 109 and that Mary has an IQ of 113. And suppose I also told you that the standard error of measurement in IQ tests is approximately 3 points, meaning that Jane’s “real” IQ is between 106 and 112, and Mary’s IQ is 110-116.

Would you conclude that Mary is “smarter” than Jane? Would that mean that Mary would necessarily get better grades than Jane in high school or college? Would it mean that Mary would necessarily have a higher SAT score than Jane? Would it mean that Mary was destined to have greater professional success than Jane?

The answers, of course, are no, no, no, and no.

Indeed, if Jane and Mary were sisters, there would be no way that anyone, including their parents, could identify which girl had the higher IQ. Given the standard error of measurement of the test, it is entirely possible that Jane and Mary actually have the same IQ since, theoretically, both could have a real IQ of 110.

In fact, the study also showed that breastfeeding had no impact on scores of two other tests, WRAVMA (Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities) and WRAML (Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning), tests of actual skills.

In other words, the study showed that the gains in IQ were trivial and did not translate to a measurable difference in performance on tests of learning and memory.

That doesn’t even take into account the limitations of the study itself (fully 1/3 of children were lost to followup and simply ignored) or the effect of publication bias, which Wikipedia defines as:

a bias towards reporting significant results, despite the fact that studies with significant results do not appear to be superior to studies with a null result with respect to quality of design. It has been found that statistically significant results are three times more likely to be published than papers affirming a null result.

In other words, a study that shows that breastfeeding increases IQ is 3 times more likely to be published than a study that shows breastfeeding provides no benefit in IQ even though the second study may be of equal or higher quality.

I expressed my skepticism of this study to the Wall Street Journal:

Dr. Amy Tuteur, an obstetrician who writes a blog called, is unconvinced by a four-point increase in IQ, saying the bump needs to be bigger to prove that it isn’t just random variation. “Intelligence is multifactoral and the idea that any one thing can make a big difference right away makes me skeptical,” she said. “American IQ has been increasing steadily, it rose when breast-feeding rates were going down and it rose when breast-feeding rates were going up.”

What the real take home message of this study?

It’s exactly the same as the take home message of all the other over-hyped studies that purport to show that breastfeeding increases IQ:

The impact of breastfeeding on IQ is trivial and has no measurable effect on learning, memory or achievement.

In other words, this study, which will be used as a cudgel by lactivists to shame women who don’t breastfeed, actually provides tremendous reassurance. There is NO need to feel guilty about not breastfeeding, since there is no clinically apparent benefit in achievement.

219 Responses to “Another day, another over-hyped breastfeeding study”

  1. Natasha
    October 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    I advocate Breastfeeding. The benefits are seen in kids I Q scores even more so in the first 3 years of life depending on the level of education that child has received it will show up again, A study should be done on a larger group of children, based on the level of education the children received earlier on. At least until collage..

    • RealityCheck
      November 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      Natasha: “Collage”? Really?

  2. Breastfeeding ROCKS
    August 29, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Why are you against breastfeeding benefits? I guess it’s just accidental that my child nursed until 6 and has never had an antibiotic, ear infection or sick doctor visit. Breastfeeding may not make her smarter than she would have been but it certainly kept her healthier.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 29, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      I suspect the word you are looking for is “coincidental” not “accidental,” but, yet, you are right, it’s just a coincidence.

      • thanksforthelaughs
        September 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

        Haha you’re such a bitter hag! Does saying it out loud make you believe it in your head? Bless you, having to say anything controversial to get hits on your blog… one would visit your page if information here was truthful now would they?

        • PJ
          September 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

          And yet you can’t counter with any facts, can you? Just the same old misogynistic insults.

        • Squillo
          September 25, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

          And you got sucked right in.


    • Mrs Dennis
      October 9, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      I breastfeed my 23 year old (he is an actuary with an international bank), my 21 year old (Marine Biology graduate 1st class), my 19 year old who has just gone to uni (to read maths; I mail him his milk in a ziploc bag), my 15 year old (I have to conceal her milk in a slushie), and my 4 year old who’s just started primary school. Plus, I breastfeed my 9 year old stepson, 16 year old motherless niece, and a nest of orphaned baby hedgehogs.

      • Susan
        October 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

        I bet they are the smartest hogs on the hedge too and have never had an ear infection ( is that just accidental?).

        • Mrs Dennis
          October 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

          Ain’t no hedge smart enuff to hold my hawgs. And no, they never had an ear infection; although that could be due to my having had their ears surgically removed so I wouldn’t have to take time off with sick kids/hogs.

  3. auntbea
    August 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Oh FFS. “Breastfeeding Is the Cheapest and Most Effective Life-Saver in History”

    • suchende
      August 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      UNICEF doesn’t exist to aid the first world. Everything there is accurate for the populations they serve.

      • auntbea
        August 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        How do you know? I see no evidence in that article that a) they were limiting themselves to the developing world, considering they cited studies from the US or UK; b) breastfeeding is more effective than, say, clean water or vaccinations or c) that all that training and support that need to put in place to encourage breastfeeding is actually cheaper per life saved than dispensing chlorine tablets or malaria nets.

        Plus, an exciting new policy of building dedicated rooms for nursing in places where people don’t even dedicated rooms for pooping is just…offensively bizarre.

        • PJ
          August 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

          Yes, Suchende is right–UNICEF serves the developing world. Breastfeeding genuinely can make a big difference to child health in many developing countries where there isn’t access to safe formula. I think your criticism of dedicated nursing rooms is a bit harsh, too. They sound like a great idea to me.

          • auntbea
            August 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

            Still waiting on the evidence that breastfeeding is the “cheapest and most effective lifesaver in history.”

          • Natasha
            October 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

            You should see me bff bill for a month for formula I couldn’t believe it I would be able to rent a store front literally! As apposed to my breastfeed babie who never! Had Formula! ( Breastfeed until 1yrs old) it’s Formula 0/Breastfeeding 1 Enfamil and Similac are very expensive it’s said to be the closest to Breast milk both companies tell you the breast milk the best milk PLS look it up.

          • KarenJJ
            October 9, 2013 at 12:18 am #

            Well that certainly justifies the claim that it is the “cheapest and most effective lifesaver in history”.

        • suchende
          August 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

          I know because I know people who work with/for UNICEF.

          Clean water is incredibly expensive.

          • auntbea
            August 3, 2013 at 10:24 am #

            And I work on the political economy of development — including health care — in Africa. And I would still like to see some evidence. So far, really not impressed.

    • LibrarianSarah
      October 8, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      I guess UNICEF forgot about the existence of vaccination.

  4. abc123
    July 31, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    AND control for mother/father IQ.

  5. abc123
    July 31, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Finally someone is saying this! I worked for the Surgeon Generals office. We had full on battles amongst ourselves about whether this is correlation or causation. I’d love to see a study that can truly control for 1) socioeconomic status 2) mother/father staying at home with baby full time (higher chance that the baby will be exposed to more words per day – a factor in verbal IQ).

    I believe the physical aspects (slightly higher immunity, asthma reduction, etc) far more than intellectual aspects.

  6. GreyOneSoon
    July 31, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Dr. Amy, I agree with your conclusion that “The impact of breastfeeding on IQ is trivial…” But, I think some of your justifications on reaching that conclusion are unreasonable. I’m not a statistical expert, but as an academic that relies on similar statistical approaches frequently, it appears that the authors’ used fairly reasonable statistical methods and that makes the Mary versus Jane IQ conundrum a rather moot point. Furthermore, I don’t have enormous issue with the loss-to-follow-up in this study. I agree that there is significant loss, which is common for many prospective epidemiological studies, but the authors deal with such loss in a reasonable manner and present enough information (demographics on those lost) for a knowledgable reader to take into account how such loss may or may not influence the data/interpretation. And I think your issue with publication bias is just silliness. Publication bias exists and must be recognized, but that is not a limitation of this particular study. Publication bias does because problematic when considering a body of literature, for a meta-analysis perhaps, but stating that “In other words, a study that shows that breastfeeding increases IQ is 3 times more likely to be published than a study that shows breastfeeding provides no benefit in IQ even though the second study may be of equal or higher quality” doesn’t seem to apply when critically examining the contents of this one study.

    At the end of the day, this was another study showing a very small effect of breastfeeding on cognitive outcome. The media will continue to hype up these types of results, but they aren’t knowledgable enough to understand if such effects have any real clinical significance. The effects appear to be there, but they are so small that for an individual the absolute increase in points is pretty meaningless. I can’t really comment on the notion that this same increase in IQ points on a public health scale might actually have some significance, but it is an argument commonly made.

    Keep up the good work!! I enjoy your blog regularly!

  7. TheBreastLife
    July 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I nursed all three of my kids and I can’t stand the media hype over these studies. If everyone is so convinced that ‘breast is best’ why don’t they pay for more maternity leave or provide tangible breastfeeding support to new mothers? Women are instead made to feel guilty or bad if they don’t breastfeed or if they use formula. These so-called studies don’t help at all.

  8. Tim
    July 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I like how when WSJ and other outlets publicize the study, they overhype the benefits, but when BCH publicizes it themselves the main author goes to great lengths to explain that a) the benefits are small b) turning off the TV and interacting with your children will do much more in the long run

    • tim
      July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      “Our findings clearly demonstrate that children who were breastfed longer had
      higher scores,” Belfort says. “But it’s also important to note that these
      improvements per month of breastfeeding were small. At an individual level, I
      don’t think the differences uncovered in our study will make a large difference
      in how a single child develops. But when thinking about this issue from a
      larger, societal standpoint, it could be extremely important in improving
      overall cognitive development of children.”

      . “Breastfeeding is one of many things parents can do to promote cognitive
      development in their infants, but it’s certainly not the only thing,” she says.
      “Turning off the TV and talking and reading to babies is very important and can
      make a big difference in their development as well. Regardless of which feeding
      practice you adhere to, an engaged parent will always be the most important
      factor in promoting a child’s future.”

      • GreyOneSoon
        July 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

        The media seems to be the problem, not the science!!

  9. Kalacirya
    July 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    One my advisors and I spent a minute laughing at this study today.

  10. Roy Benaroch MD
    July 31, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    A pediatrician’s POV on the study:

    Agree, spun and overhyped. Believe me, I am a breastfeeding advocate. But rah-rah doesn’t have to mean dishonest.

    • auntbea
      July 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      Reading your blog, I am curious: Why do you want more babies to be breastfed? Why are you rah-rah about breastfeeding, instead of “meh”?

      • July 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

        Auntbea, there are some significant, though modest, benefits to breastfeeding over bottle feeding. The most robust evidence is about immune benefits. For example, a breastfed baby gets about 1/2 an ear infection fewer a year. From the point of view of an individual mom making a decision about her individual baby, 1/2 an ear infection isn’t a strong benefit– but from a public health point of view, if ALL babies were breastfed in the USA, that would work about to about a 1/2 to one million fewer ear infections a year. (I’m mixing old and new data here, so that may not be the best estimate, but it is a large number no matter how you slice it.) Nursing also seems to prevent diarrhea/vomiting illnesses as well as ordinary upper respiratory infections. Again, not by a big number for each child, but in the aggregate increased breastfeeding would have a significant and positive public health impact, especially when you consider that preventing these infections in babies would secondarily prevent them in parents, school teachers, and the rest of us.

        There are other at least putative benefits of breastfeeding. My impression is also that many (certainly not all!) women enjoy nursing and look at it as a positive experience for them and their babies. There’s pretty good evidence that breastfed babies have fewer allergic disorders, too, and may have a decreased risk of obesity later on. Again, I agree with you that these benefits numerically aren’t huge, but they are important. I try to represent them realistically when discussing these issues w/ families.

        (I posted the same answer to a similar question on my blog)

        • DiomedesV
          July 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

          I agree except that my impression is that the “fewer allergic disorders” seems largely limited to young children, and doesn’t hold up at 7+ years of age. Not sure about the obesity bit, either. I’d say the evidence is neutral/negative.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            August 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

            I am starting to believe that the only reason breastfeed babies have less allergic disorders is because they are exposed to more antigens in their mother’s milk because of the foods she eats than formula fed babies. If this is the case and the evidence for this theory are strong, then it could be easily overcome by introducing a greater variety of foods earlier in formula fed babies.

          • Clarissa Darling
            August 1, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

            N=1 but, my niece was breastfed for more than a year and is allergic to everything (nuts, soy, milk and eggs). I’m curious now whether my sister’s rather restrictive diet might have played a part in this.

          • August 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

            One never can pin down an exact reason for allergy in an individual case. But current recommendations do NOT support nursing moms (or pregnant moms) restricting their diet in any way to reduce allergy. There are some diet restrictions recommended for other reasons.

          • Clarissa Darling
            August 2, 2013 at 12:00 am #

            I might have misunderstood but, I thought the theory that Sullivan was referring to was that breast fed babies might be more protected from allergies because of the foods they are exposed to via their mother’s milk. I’ve also read other information suggesting that exposing children to certain allergy prone foods early on may actually decrease instances of allergies. I know it’s just a theory (I’m not planning to feed my baby peanut butter or anything) but, assuming it’s correct I was wondering if a children of breastfeeding mom who has a very limited diet could be more prone to allergies as a result.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            August 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

            You are right, it is about being exposed to a variety of foreign food antigens at an early age. If they are exposed to less antigens because the mother has a restrictive diet than you would expect an increase in food allergies. Although, if allergies are very rare in your family then it probably won’t matter one way or another. Also, infants who are breastfed by mothers with uncontrolled/not well controlled allergies or asthma are at much greater risk for developing allergic disorders.

            Oh, and as far as peanut butter goes, if no one in your family is allergic to any nuts it is a good idea to try peanut butter as soon as they have had a few different types of purees with no problem. For my nephews we mixed it in rice cereal. If someone in your family is allergic to any nuts it is probably a good idea to get an allergy test first.

          • Lisa
            August 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

            Where I live food allergies are rare even for formula fed children. it is mostly related to genetics.

          • August 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

            I don’t know if it is the only reason, but the pendulum is certainly swinging more towards the earlier introduction of a variety of complementary foods for babies, in part to reduce food allergy risk:

        • auntbea
          August 1, 2013 at 9:48 am #

          Well, but what about the population level COSTS of breastfeeding? Presumably we don’t have higher breastfeeding rates for a reason: some of it is surely social/political/economic, but presumably some of it is because breastfeeding carries physical or emotional risks.

          • Clarissa Darling
            August 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

            This is also my issue with the whole “breastfeeding saves society money” argument. As a very simplistic analogy, say I’m going to invest in a company and the only thing I know about them is that they increased their sales 25% over last year. Seems like a good investment but, it’s completely possible for a company to increase sales and decrease profits. Without looking at all of the relevant numbers how can we know?

            At least some of the savings from fewer childhood ear infections would be offset by the cost of treating women who have conditions that are caused or
            exacerbated by breastfeeding. Has anyone really studied what those costs are? Factor in not conditions which physically effect the breasts like mastitis and thrush but, also women who take medications to increase low milk supply or women who forgo medications that they don’t want their baby exposed to and suffer from health problems because of it. There other indirect costs which are difficult to quantify.

            Disclaimer: I’m NOT saying that savings from higher breastfeeding rates would not still be a net benefit, I am just wondering if anyone has done any solid research which considers these factors.

          • August 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

            That is an interesting question. I have never seen a study that looks at that side of the equation.

          • Sue
            August 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

            We all know that health outcomes are rarely dependent on a single factor. We also know from the same literature that supports a modest decrease in respiratory and gastro infections also identifies the more important influences: household smoking and the presence of older sibs (or childcare contacts) makes a much better difference to infection rates in infants.

            Like the regular poster ”Bofa” likes to say, breast feeding has some benefit, ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL.

            Completely stopping household smoking would be a great thing to campaign about – with no down-sides. OTOH, a formula-fed baby with no older sibs, who is not exposed to child care, in a non-smoking household, is highly unlikely to get a gastro illness in the first year. (In the study data, not every FF child gets an infection anyway).

            As far as asthma goes, the same applies. Asthma is an inflammatory condition with a strong genetic tendency, also worsened by smoke in the household.

          • Lily
            August 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

            My dad was exclusively breastfed for 2 years. His mother even breastfed 4 other children for sometime. He has nasal and sinus allergy and has to control it with daily cortisone nasal spray. And we have inherited the same problem. My oldest sister even has eczema. She breastfed all her four children and they all again inherited her allergies. It is much more about the genetics.

          • T
            August 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

            I tried to breastfeed my both children but couldn’t for very different reasons both times. My second trial was horrible and I feel worse regarding breastfeeding.

            All the studies are focusing on the correlation. Why not doing more researches on how these things happen to improve formula for those innocent children who cant be breastfed either they are adopted or lost a mother or their mothers have hormonal problems not producing enough, had a breast cancer, or any other reason!

          • Young CC Prof
            August 24, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

            There are two kinds of breastmilk studies.

            1) Ones designed to prove breast milk is best. These are basically all garbage.

            2) Ones designed to figure out what the real differences are. These show that the only thing in breastmilk that isn’t in formula is a certain type of antibody that helps keep off stomach infections. Right now, we can’t synthesize that, it’s too hard. Still, there isn’t really a long-term difference there.

          • Box of Salt
            August 24, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

            YCCP “Right now, we can’t synthesize that, it’s too hard.”

            Are you trying to inspire me to get back into the lab or what?

            Although – the heck with it. I don’t do peptides (antibodies = polypeptide).

          • Young CC Prof
            August 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

            If we could synthesize antibodies in a cheap, practical way, we could do a heck of a lot more than replicate breastmilk!

          • Box of Salt
            August 24, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

            There’s a reason why we genetically engineer bacteria to make things like insulin for us, instead of using laboratory chemical synthesis.

          • Young CC Prof
            August 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

            Yeah, I know. It’s freaking hard.

          • Box of Salt
            August 24, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

            T, please join us on this post:

            and this one:


            Read the comments. You’ll find a lot of folks who are on the same side.

        • Sullivan ThePoop
          August 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

          I am not all together convinced that the decrease in ear infections in breast fed babies is due to antibodies. I think it has more to do with bottle feeding and that formula is sweeter than breast milk.

          Another issue I have with your response is that there would be any significant decrease in adult infections due to less infections in infants. Infants are susceptible to many more pathogens than adults, especially different strains of cold virus. The really contagious things that they bring home from school or daycare are not reduced by breastfeeding.

          • August 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

            Most formulas have lactose as their main sugar. Lactose from cow’s milk is equal to lactose from human milk. The “sweetness” of most cow’s milk based formulas is not different from the sweetness of human milk. Even if it were, how would that affect infection rates?

            You are correct that some of the protective effect of nursing may be mechanical– perhaps related to how the action of nursing is different from the action of bottle feeding. That could plausibly explain a difference in ear infections, for instance. I am not so sure how that would explain GI infections.

            The evidence that nursing prevents some URIs and other infections is quite robust, and has been seen in both developed and developing countries. The protection does include “the really contagious things they bring home from school or daycare”– mostly upper respiratory viral infections and diarrheal illnesses. As I said, the effect, though not large, appears to be real. A nice review:

            When babies get fewer URIs and diarrheal illnesses, their parents get fewer of these illnesses. That’s pretty self-apparent to any parent of a baby– whatever baby brings home, mom and dad get it too.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            August 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

            Well, the decrease in GI infections is obviously because of the IgA antibodies in breast milk. The sweetness is just a more attractive nutritional source for bacteria when it gets trapped in the ear canal.

            I am a biologist, not a medical doctor so I am looking at this mechanistically. There are a number of people especially of European descent who are genetically unable to produce IgA antibodies, the only kind infants get in breast milk. These people live a virtually normal life other than that they get more GI infections, slightly more respiratory infections (some people get more UTIs) and have a harder time fighting off lower respiratory infections. They do not get more ear infections and have no issue clearing upper respiratory infections. If IgA was important in ear infections you would see it in these people.

            I never caught anything from my children until they started elementary school. Although my children didn’t go to daycare and were very rarely sick. My nephews have had quite a few colds and one GI infection and no adults caught them.

  11. Anka
    July 31, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    This was especially nice to read just now while breastfeeding my baby for his “dessert” after he had his usual at this feeding (lots of breast milk from nursing, lots of pumped breast milk, and lots of formula, on a schedule). He always wants/needs between two and three times what the lactation consultants said he’d need per feeding. He’s 25th percentile in weight and 90th in height so maybe he’s trying to make his weight and height match? In any case, trying to breastfeed him exclusively means he’s on my boob literally almost 24/7 and we’re all unhappy and exhausted, which has not been great for milk production. This way he gains more weight and we all get some sleep, . I’m so tired of hearing that breastfeeding is the cure for all ills and that any deviation from exclusive, purely baby-led breastfeeding means you’re dooming your baby to an inferior existence.

    • Jennifer2
      July 31, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      Breastfeeding is actually the “cure” for a lot of ills in societies where there is lack of access to clean water, lack of food, malnutrition, extreme poverty, etc. It is also the “cure” for a lot of the “ills” in societies where parents are concerned less with having a happy, healthy child and more with having a maximally healthy, intelligent, well-behaved, optimized child. For the majority of babies, breast milk and formula are just two different foods that serve the same purpose of feeding babies.

  12. amazonmom
    July 30, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    I think I will tell the lactation consultants at work that I am supplementing with formula because I want my child to have a shot at a more normal IQ. Everyone loves to say people with high IQ are social misfits with no practical skills anyway right? So why would I want to curse my child with 4 more points?

    • Alenushka
      August 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      I nursed my kids. I msut say, 4 points one way or anotehr would not make a difference to my kid. His IQ puts him in top 5 %. He would happily have an average IQ in exhange for being free from a life long mentall inllness he ahs.

      • amazonmom
        August 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        I would trade many IQ points to not have Bipolar II disorder. I don’t know which illness your son has but as someone with a similar IQ and a mental illness I wish him all the best.

        • Alenushka
          August 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

          He has the same. It runs in my family. He is doing amazingly well but it is always hard

  13. yentavegan
    July 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Studies like this make me laugh. I admire my adult children as much as humanly possible, and I believe they are all geniuses. But I am enough of a realist to acknowledge that it probably is a by product of genes and a stable intellectually enriching home life that has the greatest impact on their IQ.

    • Sullivan ThePoop
      July 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Not to mention, as I have said before, a high IQ does not guarantee success. My highest IQ child is not my most successful one. She was actually the least successful student of the three until she went to college.

  14. Leica
    July 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Kind of a random aside, but I read an interesting article the other day that iodine added to salt may be responsible for a 15 point IQ increase in the U.S since 1924.

    • desiree
      July 31, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Fascinating! I’ve wondered if they’ve been able to quantify the effect of removing lead from the environment. I’m certain that’s boosted the collective IQ.

  15. theadequatemother
    July 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Oh thank god. Without those four IQ points I was really worried son#1 wouldn’t get into Haw-vahrd.

    • Elizabeth A
      July 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm #


      It’s “Hah-vahd.” He’s certainly not going to get in if you cahn’t pronounce it propahly.

      • Jocelyn
        July 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

        This reminds me of an interesting article I read this week about American & British accents: Apparently, the British accent used to sound more like the American accent, and it’s the one that’s changed, not the other way around.

        • KarenJJ
          July 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

          I vaguely remember reading something similar in a Bill Bryson book (can’t remember the name of it offhand – was a history of the english language).

  16. ol
    July 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I think breastfeeding has one consequence for a modern woman – its organisation leads to more frequent and close contact between mother and baby. Mother is somehow has to be close to her baby. and this – more contact – may influence more than mode of feeding. And the increase in verbal IQ may show this: more contact, more interactions, more speech.

    • JC
      July 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      The only issue I have with this theory is I’ve heard more than one woman admit they play on their phone or on the Internet, or watch TV while nursing. So it’s far from gazing lovingly into their eyes as they feed them. Yes, technically the baby is close to them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they feel close to the baby during this time. And, let’s cut moms some slack, how many times a day do you feed a newborn? Whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding, moms shouldn’t feel like they have to “bond,” sing or interact with the baby during every feed.

      • Elizabeth A
        July 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

        I binge-watched so much How I Met Your Mother while nursing DD down at night that when she was four months old, it was possible to get her to sleep just by playing the theme song. It was awesome.

        • Guestll
          July 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

          Criminal Minds marathons on A&E, in the middle of the night.

          • Dr Kitty
            July 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

            Breaking Bad.
            Also, so many times “Once More With Feeling” , because watching musical Buffy made me feel better at 3am.

          • Elizabeth A
            July 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

            I was so bummed when my kids started to understand enough of that that I couldn’t watch it in front of them anymore.

        • kumquatwriter
          July 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

          Arrested development, Heroes, Lie to Me, scrubs…

        • BeatlesFan
          July 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

          My LO is becoming quite a fan of Smallville and Law & Order.

        • Mac Sherbert
          July 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

          Big Bang Theory.

        • Jennifer2
          July 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

          I watched every episode of 30 Rock that existed at the time while pumping. Once, months after switching to formula, I actually noticed the faint tingle of a letdown reflex while watching an episode. It was a bit disconcerting.

          • Mom of 2
            July 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

            I watched Lost to get me through morning sickness…now the thought of that show makes me queasy.

          • GuestB
            July 31, 2013 at 9:18 am #

            I remember laying on the couch wanting to die (thanks to HG) during the Bejing summer olympics. Thank God I only have to be reminded of that every 4 years.

        • Bombshellrisa
          July 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

          I had gotten the entire series of “Are You Being Served”, “Keeping Up Appearances” and “Father Ted” in anticipation of being up at 2am and needing something funny up watch. I am surprised my child didn’t end up talking with a British accent (or an Irish one).

        • KarenJJ
          July 30, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

          The 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. My ‘need a break from the world’ comfort show.

          • Elizabeth A
            July 30, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

            You’re so much classier then most of us.

            I’m not even getting *in* to the things I watched with then 2 yo DS while I was on bed rest. (Bones is totally appropriate for children! Shut up!)

          • KarenJJ
            July 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

            I’m much deafer – I know the plot and don’t need to really understand what they are saying to follow the storyline. I can’t get the jokes on How I Met Your Mother without subtitles and somehow we couldn’t get the working on the cheap-and-dodgy DVD player we had.

        • wookie130
          August 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

          Ummm…The Walking Dead marathon, and also every cheesy psycho nanny and kidnapping movie made for the Lifetime Movie Network. TOTALLY APPROPRIATE for infant viewing.

      • Mishi
        July 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

        M*A*S*H for our eldest, the theme song calmed her instantly, which I was not going to complain about despite knowing the lyrics because she had colic. The Bill for our second, and at the moment, Midsommer Murders is the one I watch most while feeding our third child.

      • Meerkat
        July 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

        My son was a sleepy cluster feeder. Our evening feedings lasted for hours. Bonding? bah…It usually went like this: suck..suck…lick…..zzzzzzz……suck.. Zzzzzzzzz……suck suck suck suck suck…….zzzzzz…zzzzz…zzzz..etc….he didn’t even open his eyes! I surfed the net, watched TV, read, did crossward puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, ate, and napped. Oh, and I occasionally tried to brush his head fluff into a mahawk. We bonded more during diaper changes!
        Now he is a distracted eater, so feeding him is like wrestling with a bear cub. I prefer to bond with him when he is paying attention!

      • Anka
        July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

        Nice to hear! I’ve been trying to interact with my newborn while he’s feeding, but after the first 15 minutes or so (max) he closes his eyes and sleep-eats and then I get bored. We do this about ten times a day for up to an hour at a time, so I don’t feel compelled to be helicoptering in his face all the time (though I was worried that there was something wrong with me because of it). I just mainlined all of The Buccaneers and finished a couple of novels while breastfeeding. And I’m on the internet while breastfeeding right now.

    • PJ
      July 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      I don’t follow how breastfeeding = “more interactions, more speech” than formula feeding. (Are we supposed to conclude that hungry babies become smarter adults?) The thing that is really important to children’s speech is hearing lots of it, and lots of different words, and breastfeeding time isn’t exactly prime talking time, is it?

      • Jennifer2
        July 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

        Most of my interactions with my son during nursing were him laying on a Boppy pillow staring at my stomach and me crying and gritting my teeth and not making eye contact until he was done gumming my nipples raw. Or basically ignoring him while I pumped. The only time I ever propped a bottle was once in order to have my hands free so I could pump at the same time. Most of my interactions with my son during bottle feeding were cuddling, talking to him, making faces at him, etc. I didn’t even have a free hand with which to be doing something else, so I was “stuck” actually interacting meaningfully with him until he was done eating.

        • KarenJJ
          July 30, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

          That was my experience. It was a relief to stop breastfeeding and start bottle feeding my daughter. Not only was she more settled, but also I could finally see her face! She spent hours sucking away and but when I started bottle feeding her she was able to see my face and I could smile at her 🙂 That was when we really started to bond more.

          • Lily
            August 24, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

            Me too. Bottle feeding was the best for us after all these struggles and looking at these little eyes satisfied watching your face make you happiest mother ever :).

    • Elizabeth A
      July 30, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

      It’s not possible, no matter how you feed, to feed a baby from across the room. Someone has to be close to the baby, whether there’s a breast or a bottle involved. I don’t think breast feeding leads to babies hearing more speech or having closer contact with adults than bottle feeding does.

      OTOH, this verbal IQ measure has been meaningfully linked to parental income – richer parents tend to talk to their kids more, interact with them more, and use more words then financially more strapped parents (who rely more on non-parental care, and are more stressed in general). Breastfeeding has also been linked to higher parental income – women with more resources are more likely to be able to breastfeed. This is the very definition of a confounding factor.

      • auntbea
        July 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

        My education, relative wealth and breastmilk are not compensating for the fact that my husband and I are both strong introverts who keep forgetting to hold conversations *outside* our own heads. I guess our poor baby is just going to have to learn English from Elmo.

        • Elizabeth A
          July 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

          Your baby will be in good company. I wouldn’t sweat it.

        • BeatlesFan
          July 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

          Oh no, Elmo is the LAST creature on Earth I’d want my child learning English from- Cookie Monster is a close second. I would go bonkers from listening to my child refer to herself in third person!

          • auntbea
            July 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

            But Cookie Monster is HILARIOUS. And he uses such big words! It’s Squeaky Abby Flying Fairy who is banned in our house.

          • BeatlesFan
            July 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

            I haven’t heard of that one yet, and something tells me I should be happy about that.

          • Elizabeth A
            July 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

            Are you kidding? I *love* Flying Fairy School!

            “It’s not the first time a chicken has gone through the ceiling in this classroom, and it won’t be the last!”

          • auntbea
            July 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

            I’m actually pleased to know that someone likes that. Because I was thinking Sesame Street had just gone completely off the rails.

          • Jennifer2
            July 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

            How is “twinkle-thinking” different from thinking? I just don’t get it.

          • auntbea
            July 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm #


          • Elizabeth A
            July 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

            How is “twinkle-thinking” different from thinking?

            Greater respiratory effort.

            I didn’t say it made sense, but so far as I can tell, that’s the difference.

          • Antigonos CNM
            July 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

            My father was a language fanatic. “It doesn’t matter too much what you say as long as you say it correctly” was a maxim of his. Given the current state of most spoken English these days, it’s a wonder any baby learns to ever speak properly. And let’s not even think about what texting is doing to written language.

            When I first arrived in Israel and was in language school it quickly became apparent that a goodly portion of the US students didn’t even know the difference between an adjective and an adverb or that a sentence should have a subject and a verb [whazzat?]

          • LibrarianSarah
            July 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

            That’s crazy! Elmo taught LibrarianSarah everything LibrarianSarah knows. LibrarianSarah loves Elmo!

          • Antigonos CNM
            July 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

            Except that children do refer to themselves initially in the third person, which I suspect is why Elmo and Cookie Monster do it.

          • July 30, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

            Mine doesn’t… (He’s two) he’s not particularly verbal, and he doesn’t always get the usage right, but it’s always “I” and “me” not his name. I think part of the reason little kids tend to speak in the third person is that’s how adults speak to them? Like: “This cup is for Johnny and this cup is for Mommy.”

          • S
            July 31, 2013 at 11:22 am #

            Mine calls himself “you” because he’s got his pronouns mixed up. It’s clearer when he uses his name.

          • July 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

            When my son wants to be carried he says “I carry you!?” It’s kind of awesome.

        • AmyP
          July 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

          I have the same problem. When I’m alone with the baby, I forget to talk to her. I did the same thing with my older kids and it hasn’t kept them from developing normally and having amazing vocabularies.

          I have seen chatty mothers that I think may have been stunting their children’s verbal development, as they didn’t allow the kids to fit a word in edgewise.

        • KarenJJ
          July 30, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

          People are starting to notice that my daughter speaks very similarly to Peppa Pig…

      • Expat in Germany
        July 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

        I didn’t buy the -moms who yammer more make kids who do better in school- conclusion from that study. The study only said low income moms use fewer words than high income moms in the first year and drew a conjecture with school performance. It is only coincidental until they finish the research where low income moms use word counters and actively increased their yammering. They will measure the school performance of those kids in a few years and then we will have a better answer: does yammering in the first years improve school performance later? Right now, we don’t have causality. Income definitely correlates with IQ and the yammering (or breastfeeding) may not be the causative factor. My money would be on genetics (50-80 % inheritable).

        • Expat in Germany
          July 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

          Sorry, make that genetics and expensive pre schools and summer camps.

    • BeatlesFan
      July 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      My bottlefed baby gets plenty of interaction. In fact, I even talk to her when I’m NOT feeding her! Imagine that.

    • Sullivan ThePoop
      July 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      I don’t think that is the case at all unless you assume that all formula fed babies had their bottles propped and their parents ignored them.

    • July 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      I certainly got more skin – to – skin contact with my baby via nursing than bottle feeding moms generally get, and I know the AP crowd makes a big deal about that. Otherwise? My son conked out the second his mouth touched nipple ( he was very good at sleep-eating) and I watched Netflix. Not sure that is what most people would consider ideal interaction…

    • AmyP
      July 31, 2013 at 12:46 am #

      I purposely try not to do anything interesting while breastfeeding, as it distracts the baby.

    • guest
      July 31, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      I’ll tell you that I honestly don’t think my bottle-feeding looked much different from anybody else’s breastfeeding, in terms of cuddling, coo-ing, caressing etc. With one exception – my husband, MIL and FIL all got chances to (over)do it as well. If her IQ turns out to be crappy later I’m going to blame it on all of them.

      • Lily
        August 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

        I don’t like to have my baby formula fed by others. They don’t
        pay attention to the baby. They feed them like if they are dolls!

    • Antigonos CNM
      July 31, 2013 at 6:43 am #

      Does the baby get the extra 3 points if fed expressed breast milk via a bottle? Even if Dad gives the baby the bottle with breast milk? Is it the act of sucking on a human nipple or some substance inherent in the milk itself?

    • CitrusMom
      July 31, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      I am a pragmatist and BFing my 3d baby now because it is easy for me to do. I also use formula a bit because I work and pumping can’t always keep up and switched the other two to formula at 9 months. I know what ol said is not a popular view but I do remember with BFing in the early months that you are constantly attentive to baby to see if she is hungry. I didn’t know how much she was getting so I worried it was enough and would always offer more. I wonder with exclusive FF if knowing how many ounces they’ve had recently means that on margin you pick them up a few fewer times per day. On the other hand most of us wouldn’t let our newborns fuss for any reason, even if we knew they were not hungry, so maybe not. I just think you can’t really know the tiny differences in each feeding method if you’ve never exclusively done one or the other. Anyway I’m glad Dr. Amy debunked the importance of this because I don’t believe it makes a difference and I don’t think women should be guilted. But if there were a difference I think it might be something along these lines. PLease know that I’m not saying FF mothers don’t pay attention to their babies. I am just wondering if there is a miniscule difference in amount of contact. For that matter you could just look at how often BF vs FF babies need to eat.

  17. Bombshellrisa
    July 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    One of the questions on the Brio Birth Facebook page was “How Many cumulative months have you breastfed?”. There were a few “what does cumulative mean?” answers but this answer was more typical “106.5 months so far, with never more than a 72-hour break. I’ve tandemed each time as well. I meant to have a 100 month party but lost track. Oh, probably because my son had just been born. Unless something really weir happens, I’ll nurse for a dozen years”

    • T.
      July 30, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      I am sorry. I can’t stop thinking about cows. I just can’t.

      • ACK
        July 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

        Even cows get 1 to 3 months off from milking before calving again.

      • Bombshellrisa
        July 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

        I can’t help but thinking reading the other answers, how in the world is this supposed to be “easier”?

    • Amy H
      July 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      I have a friend who hangs out with AP people and she told me she knows a lady who has spent – I think the number is 10 years either breastfeeding or pregnant. And in this case would rather not. You can guess the usual reasons. She says she is tired. I should think. Made me a little warm. I guess her husband says he just loves having kids with her.

      • Bombshellrisa
        July 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

        I would be tired too. I guess what would really concern me is a husband who “loves having kids” but fails to understand the physical part of pregnancy and nursing and how taxing they can be on a woman (not to mention the sleep deprivation that is just part of having babies and small children)

        • AmyP
          July 31, 2013 at 12:48 am #

          Some guys just loooove the pregnant female form.

          • Bombshellrisa
            July 31, 2013 at 2:08 am #

            Sounds like the kind of guy who should take some highly stylized maternity photos of his wife and have a plaster cast done of her belly. I know a few guys that had this done for their wife during each pregnancy. If he loves it, I think that is sweet-but 10 years is a long time!

          • Amy H
            July 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

            “Sweet” is not my word, if she doesn’t love it. On the other hand, ya know, she may be saying that to friends but not expressing herself real forcefully to him. Me, I’d be going for Depo-Provera with or without “permission.” Sorry, honey – let’s talk about adopting and formula feeding if you’re that into it. Foster care, anyone?

    • Bombshellrisa
      July 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

      ” 147 months give or take! That includes relactating for 3 adopted children and nursing our 4 birth children.”

      “144 months, over 4 kids. Tandem feeding for 4 years (2 different nursing pairs- weaned one just before having the next one).”

      ” 123, but our baby is just under 5 months old. I’ve been nursing and/or pregnant for the last 10 consecutive years and, prayerfully, we’ll have another baby!” More from the Brio Birth page.

  18. July 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    It is rather sad when the conclusion is written before the research is done…”this is what I believe – now find the data to support that belief” instead of “what does the data say, and how should that shape what I believe?”

  19. anonymous
    July 30, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    ” Beneficial effects of breastfeeding on the Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities at age 3 years seemed greater for women who consumed 2 or more servings of fish per week (0.24; 0.00-0.47 points per month breastfed) compared with less than 2 servings of fish per week (−0.01; −0.22 to 0.20 points per month breastfed) (P = .16 for interaction).”

    Since I can’t login and see this information can someone give me population info?

    • AmyP
      July 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      Doesn’t fish eating have a strong socioeconomic and ethnic correlation? (Unless we’re talking tuna, since a lot of middle class people will have cut back on tuna due to mercury concerns.) Well-off people eat more fish, Asians eat more fish, etc.

      • Zornorph
        July 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

        Trying so hard not to make a lesbian joke..

      • AmyP
        July 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

        Oh–and there’s also a geographic correlation, too. Coastal folk may eat more seafood than North Dakotans.

  20. NonAP
    July 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    What difference does IQ make when you are going to unschool.

    • July 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      ?? Are you saying because those kids aren’t being graded it doesn’t matter if they are smart or not?

      • NonAP
        July 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

        No I am saying that unschooling and in most cases homeschooling are not valid educational options and you are raising children that will be unable to function in modern society so it does not matter what the baby’s IQ.

        • C T
          July 31, 2013 at 10:54 am #

          Them’s fighting words, NonAP. Perhaps you need to expand your circle of homeschooling acquaintances to realize how many homeschooled kids do just fine. And no fair holding up as examples the kids who were pulled out of school for bullying, Aspergers, etc.

        • Bombshellrisa
          July 31, 2013 at 11:31 am #

          I was “unschooled” by my parents (who figured it was safer to keep me at home, so I wouldn’t have any influence but theirs) and have had to really struggle. I got my GED when I was 16 because my parents would not pay for a real homeschooling course. I took math and science classes and had a hard time studying because I had never done anything like that before. But I wanted to learn, I saw a value in learning and achieving something. It isn’t the fault of unschooled kids that their parents don’t value education, not every kid that is homeschooled is antisocial and undisciplined.

          • auntbea
            July 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

            I don’t think anyone judges the KIDS who get unschooled.

          • Bombshellrisa
            July 31, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

            It was said that it wouldn’t matter what the baby’s IQ is because it will not be able to function in society. That sounded like they aren’t worth worrying about, all because of a choice their parents made for them.

        • Older Mom
          July 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

          Wow. What a gross overgeneralization. There are kids whose homeschooling parents fail them, just as there are both public and private schools who fail the students that attend them.

          I know many families that homeschool and have provided their children with an education far superior to that provided by their local public schools. As long as they do that AND provide ample social outlets for their kids, I hardly see the problem.

          • Amy H
            July 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

            Homeschooling is not unschooling. We were homeschooled but my mom wouldn’t have touched “unschooling” with a 10-foot pole (if she’d even heard of it).

          • Older Mom
            August 2, 2013 at 10:18 am #

            Well, a lot of the “homeschoolers” I know would self-indentify as “unschoolers.” In fact, there is a lot of debate in the “unschooling” community about just what “unschooling” means, so it’s hard to generalize even about this subset of the homeschooling population.

            I know some extremists, for instance, who won’t even *expose* their preschoolers to singing the alphabet. But there are others who simply aren’t *pushing* academics and letting their children initiate instead.

            When done in conjunction with parental *exposure* to what there is to learn, I have seen a lot of “unschooled” kids be amazing successful, even while learning at their own pace and not learning from workbooks and worksheets.

            An example: a good friend of mine, she *read* a lot to her kid but didn’t push him to read. He simply wasn’t ready to start until he was 9, which I know appalls most traditionalists. By 11, he was writing sci-fi novels that read like they were written by a college student. He has gone on to be extremely successful academically at an elite private high school and consistently scores at the very top of any language aptitude test he takes, starting with his first admission test to his first formal school in his sophomore year of high school.

            So please, just as we shouldn’t generalize about homeschoolers, let’s not generalize about unschoolers either.

            I absolutely don’t disagree that some people use it as a cover for laziness, and some are just too extreme about it to be serving their children well. But when done right, “unschooling” can be a great way for some kids to learn, especially with dedicated parents.

  21. Mac Sherbert
    July 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    “The impact of breastfeeding on IQ is trivial and has no measurable effect on learning, memory or achievement.”

    This is so true. A couple of points difference in IQ is hardly noticeable in a classroom. As a teacher I couldn’t tell you which children where BF or Formula feed. I could tell you the ones that came from poverty broken homes, etc. Having a high IQ means the kids is smart and has potential, but it’s not a sign of high achievement.

    • Mac Sherbert
      July 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      So, I know there must be a way to edit this. The typos are killing me! I should know better than to type with kids around.

      • auntbea
        July 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

        There is an edit button at the bottom, but only if you are logged in to Disqus.

    • Sara
      July 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Ever head of shifting the curve? A small increase or decrease in a symptom (like IQ) can have major impacts on the amount of individuals that are at the verges of “normal” IQ. This is a well known epidemiological concept and I am surprised that it is not even mentioned in the post.

      I say nothing about the truth or lack of truth in the study and it does definitely suffer from substantial problems. But to say that an IQ difference of 3 would not matter at all (even if it was true) is just not right and certainly not scientific.

      And if you have never heard of shifting the curve, here is a good description:

      • Mac Sherbert
        July 30, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

        Actually, I have heard of shifting the curve. I was not making a scientific statement. It was purely observational.

        A teacher will notice children on the fringes of normal. There can be huge difference between an IQ of 55 and 60. However, in a classroom a teacher is not going to notice a difference between Suzy with an IQ of 96 and Judy with an IQ of 99.

  22. Guest
    July 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I want to belive this. I really do. At the moment I am busy processing the results of my son’s academic testing. I thought he was dyslexic. Turns out he has ADHD and his IQ is pretty low. I was incensed to discover that the academic testing we paid for was basically comprised of 2 back to back IQ tests with a depression questionaire thrown in at the end. I was livid when I read the “recommendations” page that advised us in so many words to lower our expectations. Did I mention I am still processing?
    Anyway, what is a mom to do but find a way to blame herself? I did not breastfeed for very long even though I had plenty of milk. I hated it. I have ordered his medical records because I am not sure about the circumstances of his birth. There may have been a subtle birth injury? Did I eat too much fish when I was pregnant? We lived in an old house when he was little. Lead poisoning? Now there’s the feeling terrible about wishing he had a higher score in the first place. He’s the same kid he was before. The one I have been head over heels crazy about since the moment of his birth 11 years ago. I’m a couple of weeks in and looking forward to the day when I can just accept and move on to helping my him. I wish I wish I could remove that f***ing score from my memory. That score is not my son.

    • Mac Sherbert
      July 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      You must stop blaming yourself. Clearly, you love your son and you are doing everything you can to help him. To me that shows you are great mom.

      Also, children with ADHD are thought to have IQ test scores lower than what their IQ really is.

    • stacey
      July 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Lots of kids do poorly on IQ tests, or other standardized tests, for a variety of reasons. Others do well on tests, but suck at real life, like me; I can ace any test, but have a hard time with the basics of daily life. If I were you, I would find a new way to figure out what the difficulty is, I think the testing you got is going to be unhelpful.

      Its also a good thing IQ has no relation to happiness in the real world.
      You do not have to be a genius, or even average, to do well and be happy.

      I think is is improbable that you had anything to do with the ADD, other than genetic contribution. And you can blame that on dad.

    • stacey
      July 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

      Here is what I found just with a quick look:
      “Children with ADHD who score poorly on IQ tests are often quite bright.” and
      “Individuals with ADHD often perform at a lower level on intelligence tests than those without ADHD”.
      Here is the link:

      In short, that is unlikely to be his actual IQ, and has little to do with anything outside of finding the ADHD.

      • Guest
        July 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

        The score they gave us was weighted to account for the ADHD. I am not sure how accurate that is, but they told us he is unlikely to go to college. HE IS 11! His original score borders on mental disability. We are supposed to present this report to his school. I can’t bring myself to do that. It doesn’t seem fair.His pediatrician has it for the purpose of prescribing ADHD meds. I need to ask her to remove all but the portion that is relevant to his attention issues. I hate that he might get a look at his records someday and disciver this score that is not a reflection of who he is at all.

        • Mac Sherbert
          July 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

          I’m assuming you are in the US. If he has been struggling in school, the school system should have done this testing for you. If he is not struggling in school and doesn’t need any accommodations, there is no need to give the school these records. However, it sounds like he would qualify for special education and you may want to take advantage of any extra services the school system could provide.

          Just think of their low expectations as a challenge. Children are more than their test scores. You never know what the future holds.

          Unfortunately, the IQ is relevant to the ADHD and I doubt any credible doctor would make an ADHD diagnosis without it.

          • Guest
            July 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

            You are probably right. I am still slightly hysterical. I’m glad we did this over the summer so we have time to think it all over. Some of you have suggested further testing. That may be what we do next.

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 30, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

            “Unfortunately, the IQ is relevant to the ADHD and I doubt any credible doctor would make an ADHD diagnosis without it.”
            It’s nice to have full testing, but the diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t rely on IQ testing and plenty of credible docs make the diagnosis without it.

          • Mac Sherbert
            July 31, 2013 at 9:16 am #

            I stand corrected, but I never had a child with a diagnosis of ADHD that wasn’t given an IQ test. Learn something everyday!

        • Michlaw
          July 30, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

          Pediatricians don’t need an IQ score to diagnose ADHD. Our son was diagnosed without an IQ test. And I hope this will help make you feel better: I breastfed my son (now age 10) and he has ADHD just like his father (age 41) who was never breastfed. It’s genetic. You shouldn’t blame yourself anymore than I would blame my husband. My son has his dad’s beautiful brown eyes, his same charming smile, and sometimes his infuriating lack of focus. My husband learned to deal with his ADHD before the days of being labelled and my son is learning from his dad. Don’t worry about the IQ number, just get some good information from a pediatrician, work with your son’s teachers and take advantage of any program your school may offer to help. It’s no one’s fault. And as others have said, he’s still your beautiful boy.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            July 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

            True, my son was also diagnosed with ADD without an IQ test by his pediatrician because of questionnaires and it turned out not to be the case at all. The school gave him several IQ tests to decide what he needed. He actually has some learning disability where he takes in information faster than he can process it, but that took going to a behavioral institute 2x a week for 5 months to diagnose.

            See when they put him on medication for ADD it caused terrible mood swings or heart palpitations or insomnia depending on which one they tried. That is when his pediatrician referred him to the behavioral institute.

          • Ainsley Nicholson
            July 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

            My daughter was diagnosed with ADD by questionnaire also, and she had really bad reactions to the medications. They worked great at first, but then the side effects set in. I had to battle with my ex to get her off the meds (he didn’t have to live with her mood swings), and in the process I wrote up the results of my review of the scientific literature showing that the meds had short term benefits and adverse side effects, but long term they have serious adverse side effects and no benefits. I can make that write-up available if anyone is interested.
            I still don’t know exactly what is going on with my daughter, but I do know that stimulant medications were not the solution to her difficulties.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            July 31, 2013 at 10:32 am #

            My nephew has ADD and he has been on medication since he was 8. It works just as well now as it did then and he is in his 20s. I think the problem is that when you diagnose by a questionnaire you get a lot of overlap with symptoms between different problems. I know early onset bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD which is why they have now added psychological testing in cases where the diagnosis is not clear. Also people metabolize medications at different rates and not all medications are going to work for every person even if they have the same affliction.

        • auntbea
          July 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

          I am so confused by this. How can they give an IQ test without knowing what processing or other problems he might have so they can accomodate them to get an accurate score? And how can they know about those problems unless they give him something other than an IQ test?

          • Guest
            July 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

            I just responded to this but it wouldn’t post. I’ll try again.
            Both myself and his teacher filled out questionaires. I also filled out a behavior checklist. There was a clinical interview and then testing. They used the Wechsler Intelligence Scale and the Woodcock Johnson III. They also used a behavior assessment system which I understand is how they diagnosed him with depression. They two IQ tests they used seem to have been the main diagnostic tools.
            It may be that I am not understanding something as this is our first go around with this type of testing. It may also be that the testing he was given was completely appropriate and I am iust too upset to accept the facts. Based on his results we were told he has ADHD and is in the borderline range for mentally deficient. Thy type of recommendations we were given were to eliminate complex assignments and teach to his level. This has really shaken us. It was not at all what we expected to hear. It led me to wonder what I could have done differently.

          • Mac Sherbert
            July 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

            This sounds like a very typical work-up, which is probably not what you want to hear. They give achievement and IQ tests to determine, if there are any learning disabilities. There may be more tests/assessments (for example Autism), but these are the standard tests given when a school system tries to determine eligibility for special education services.

            The advice you were given is also fairly standard. Teachers are always supposed to teach to the level of the child. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more you can do help him. Find out how he learns best…visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Do not let this change the way you view your child. He is still same child you have always had and loved. I know you were looking for something else, but this information can help you get him more support.

            If you choose, he can receive special education. Keep in mind that you can refuse to have him labeled, but that means he would not get any special treatment later. Look into how having and IEP might make school easier for him. For example, you could request to have test in subjects other than reading read aloud to him or allow him to take tests in a quiet area away from other students.

            As a mom you always wonder what you could have done differently, but I’ll bet the answer is nothing. Of course, you are upset. Take time to look at everything and think about what you want to do going forward.

          • Guest
            July 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

            If the testing is standard then that is something I will have to come to terms with.
            With regard to the recommendations, is it standard to tell a parent that it is unlikely their child will attend college? To talk about possible vocations before that child is even a teen? Our pediatrician today was surprised.
            I guess when I made the appointment I imagined that we were going to figure out his issues and use the information to help him move forward. This feels like he is being written off as a lost cause.
            It has been so so hard to watch him go through this. What does it mean for his self esteem to hold him back when the other kids are participating in more complicated assignments? What does special Ed. mean for the kid who is only possibly right on the cusp?

          • auntbea
            July 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

            I mean, I guess they might have told you that so that you don’t crush him by insisting he follow a path he just won’t succeed in. But they could have just told you that he might be more successful on another path, and to help him think through his options and realize that they have value too. Honestly, I don’t even find it plausible that he can’t go to college (if he wants to). There are a wide variety of colleges out there. My old neighbor, who struggles to live independently, still got his associates degree in IT, because the community college was willing and able to accomodate him.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            July 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

            Special Ed these days is amazing. I have encouraged my own students to use their IEP to their advantage even in graduate school. You definitely shouldn’t worry about that. I would embrace it. All my son needed was to take tests alone with a little more time and have someone read the instruction to him. He also took his SATs and ACTs that way, although it was even better because they have a recorded voice that read the questions to him.

          • GuestM
            July 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

            Curiosity…how long does an IEP stay with you? I’m new to this – we just got my daughter’s (she has sensory processing disorder). I had assumed it closes when they deem her “cured” correct? This whole discussion interests me, because she’s the kid I breastfed the longest and yet is the one with the most issues (although granted, for the IEP she needed an IQ test and scored very high, but I think that’s because her father and I were both in “gifted” programs, and not because she was breastfed). She’s definitely a handful and a half but most certainly needs the therapy she’s getting…

          • Squillo
            July 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

            The IEP itself is revised yearly and the child is re-evaluated every three years, at which point they may decide the child no longer needs services. If you disagree (either with the IEP or the triennial review), you can request mediation and/or independent evaluation.

            I always recommend the Wright’s Law website to parents new to the special ed game. They have resources related to navigating IEPs.

          • GuestM
            July 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

            Thanks! I’ll check that site out.

          • Sullivan ThePoop
            July 31, 2013 at 10:26 am #

            Yes, if they are cured it goes away and you have to have tests redone at the end of high school if you want it for college.

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

            It’s too soon to make predictions about college based on this testing. Even if the testing does reflect his true IQ, it can’t measure his interests or his drive or creativity. I am thinking of a patient of mine who struggled in school and eventually got testing that measured an IQ in the low/mid 80s. Everyone was a little shocked because she is so completely normal in day-to-day life except for doing poorly in school. Lovely girl, well mannered, charming etc. She got an IEP, got some tutoring. Tried meds for her ADD but never liked them so stopped. She has finished a couple of years now of college, doing fine. Plans to be a preschool teacher I believe. Has a nice boyfriend. Remains a joy to her parents. I have another patient with an IQ in the 70s. Never got a diagnosis, just found to have low IQ after struggling a lot in school. Married. Works in a reptile store–his passion. Pays his taxes etc. Healthy happy nice guy.

          • Mac Sherbert
            July 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

            No, I don’t think it would be standard to tell a parent of an 11 year old that he will never go to college. Even if it were true, a first meeting is not the time to bring up such things.

            My experience was that everyone always focused on the here and now with children that young. What can we do for him now? We mostly left the college and beyond discussions until high school. Please, tell me the school is not the one telling you these things. He not a lost cause.

            Special Ed. can cover a lot of things. It covers children with very mild learning disorders to children with multiple disabilities. I’m sure others on here can tell you more or you can just do a little research.

            As for his self-esteem…What would it do to your self-esteem, if every single thing you participated in you came in last or didn’t understand what was going on. What if you didn’t get it and all the other kids knew you didn’t get it?? What if you thought everyone kept trying to get you do something you knew you would never be able to do?He doesn’t need to be held back all the time, but he needs the opportunity to be successful at something. Maybe that’s what they meant by lowering your expectations. Be happy with him doing HIS very best.

          • auntbea
            July 31, 2013 at 9:17 am #

            I think this would be one of the advantages of putting him in a resource classroom/with a resource teacher. That teacher will know how to target lessons so that he is successful and making progress, without feeling like he just can’t keep up.

          • Clarissa Darling
            July 31, 2013 at 12:37 am #

            I’m not a teacher but, I brought this issue to my Dad who is a teacher with over 30 years of experience and advanced degrees in elementary ed. I mentioned the names of the 2 tests your son was given. He clarified that the Wechsler Intelligence Scale is the IQ portion of the test while the, Woodcock Johnson III is an achievement test. Apparently (at least in his district) for a child to qualify as learning disabled there has to be a significant enough gap between the(higher) IQ test and the (lower) achievement test to indicate that the child is performing at a lower level on the achievement test based some factor other than IQ. If both the achievement test and the IQ scores are on the lower range, this would indicate that the child is performing at an appropriate level given their IQ. He mentioned that you could get a second test done but, that in his professional experience a second round of tests usually returns similar results and the results of this type of test are considered to be fairly accurate by age 11. I am so sorry as I know this is not what you wanted to hear (and not what I wanted to hear when I asked my Dad either). I struggled with whether or not I should even present you with this information because I know it may cause further heartache. However, I thought you should have accurate information regarding the nature of the tests your son was given in hopes that it will help you decide how to move forward. I hope I made the right choice.

            Rest assured that this does not mean the school should in any way give up on educating your son. He said that many students he has seen in similar situations have gone on to graduate and have successful lives (whether or not this involves college). He emphasized that students can have many strengths which are not measured by an
            IQ test or by school performance but, which are no less valuable to individual success and to and society as a whole. My Dad suggested that you focus on helping your son discover and develop his strengths and try not to focus on what the long term outcome might be (whether he will go on to college or not etc…). He also said that if your son has received a
            diagnosis of ADHD that he would likely qualify for special education based on that and, that it would probably be helpful for your son in reaching his full
            potential for him to have the type of one on one interaction a special education teacher can provide. I’m sorry you are facing these struggles and I’m sure the diagnosis you were given would be difficult for any parent to hear. Please don’t blame yourself though; there is nothing you could have done differently
            which would have changed the results of your son’s test. You obviously love your son very much which
            counts for so much more in life than any test score! Best wishes.

    • Kumquatwriter
      July 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

      Look, I’m married to an ADHD man who joined Mensa. I also have ADHD but my “IQ” isn’t all that high. Yet I’m able to keep up fine with my “official” genius husband. Lots of ADHD kids don’t test well.

      as for our kid, I would have formula fed the whole time if it would have slowed DOWN my kid a little. He hasn’t been tested for anything yet.

      it isn’t your fault if his IQ is “low” and it probably isn’t really. Motherhood is hard enough anyway.

    • Elizabeth A
      July 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Guest, I’d be pissed too. Your son needed a thorough assessment, and he got IQ tests, and you *paid* for that, thinking you were getting him what he needed…. Livid.

      “Lower your expectations” is not helpful advice. Your child also needs someone to believe in his potential. If the test results do not seem to you to talk about the child you know, and if they don’t help you find strategies for helping him, then it’s not time to stop searching.

      • Guest
        July 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

        That was the worst part. Who tells the mother of a fifth grader that her kid will never go to college and to lower her expectations? It was devastating. Thank you for commiserating.

        • Elizabeth A
          July 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

          Well, I was kind of one of those kids. At age 7, the elementary school thought I was mildly retarded. After I’d spent a year gaming the special ed rewards system for toys and candy, they retested and determined that I was both very nearsighted and very bad at keeping track of my crayons.

          Eleven is not seven. Things are somewhat different at that age. But IQ tests are definitely not the final measure, and when a parent sees a major discrepancy between the test result and the child, I am inclined to say that the parent’s interpretation might be more accurate.

        • ElsaKay
          July 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

          My mother was told by her elementary school that she probably wouldn’t learn to read, and would certainly never go to college. She currently has a masters’ degree and is gainfully employed. I hope you’re able to move through your despair and come to a place of acceptance. I’m rooting for you and your son!

          • KarenJJ
            July 30, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

            My sister too. She was a bit of a late bloomer. Has a degree from university and a full time job. This sort of testing gives a ‘point in time’ and who knows what will happen in the future. And who knows what was going on in his head.
            I deliberately failed an IQ test as a 10yo because I didn’t know what it was for and my classmates told me that it was to see if you were to go to a special school. I’d just changed schools and decided to flunk the test (and also canny enough to get just enough right that it didn’t look like I’d done it deliberately). Turned out it was an access test to get into enrichment classes and I was denied entry. Mum went down and spoke to the school and I went along anyway in the end. I finally owned up to it in my 20s.

    • Antigonos CNM
      July 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      My son, who was exclusively breastfed [with great difficulty, I might add] was diagnosed with ADHD and mild learning disabilities by 2nd grade. He spent a couple of years in special ed; took antidepressants [he was threatening suicide] from 9 to 15, barely finished high school. He’s now 32, still hyperactive, very successful financially and, with two partners, owns a number of businesses and credits his problems with being the challenges he needed to “begin thinking outside the box”. Think of Sir Richard Branson, or Henry Winkler [“The Fonz”] who are both so dyslexic and were so disruptive in school they were expelled before completing a basic education. At 11 it is impossible to know in what areas and when he will flower, but I bet your son surprises you in the end. “Success” is such a wildly varying thing. Frankly, I think a child who winds up a happy carpenter is better off than an unhappy academic.

    • AmyP
      July 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      As I was posting on another thread, an IQ score is a floor, not a ceiling. Your son is at least as bright as his IQ score.

      If he’s tested while on the right medication and under favorable circumstances (no back-to-back tests), I think you’re going to get better results. Him taking a test without medication is like another child taking the test without wearing glasses.

      • KarenJJ
        July 30, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

        Back to back IQ tests? Is that how they are meant to be given? I’d struggle with paying attention that long as well, let alone actually finishing the thing…

    • Squillo
      July 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      I’d suggest a full assessment with a developmental pediatrician. That might give you a more accurate picture with information you can actually use, like areas of relative strength and weakness, and, probably, recommendations for therapies to bolster the weaknesses where necessary.

      Either way, though, try to remind yourself that your son is the same wonderful little boy he’s always been–a number on a piece of paper doesn’t change a thing about him. And whatever his challenges, you didn’t cause them, and now you’re doing the best you can to help him deal with them. That makes you a good mom.

    • July 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      I’d be rather disappointed too – I imagine you wanted to investigate why your son was struggling and it seems as though the investigation that you paid to have done was very cursory. When a psychoeducational assessment is done why, a parent should feel as though they have a clear understanding about why their child is struggling as well as the specific supports the child needs to succeed. Undertaking an IQ test without investigating for other learning challenges and without taking steps to address those challenges seems like it would really short-change the child and handicap him from being enabled to meet his full potential. Back when my step-son was 11 we had a psychoeducational assessment done as he was struggling academically and the insights it provided enabled us as parents to provide him with the supports he needed to compensate for his learning challenges (dysgraphia, some ADHD, mild autism). He is now in grade 11 (16) and is a solid academic performer (mostly A’s with a few B’s) and is socially competent. Focus on his strengths and do what you can to help him to compensate for his specific challenges (after you find somebody who will actually do the work to figure out what (if any) they are). I hesitate to think what we would have done if his assessment had been nothing more than IQ tests with a depression scale – and it is rather frightening to think of the potential that would have been foregone.

    • Houston Mom
      July 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Guest, for what it’s worth, my brother had a similar diagnosis late in elementary school. He was declared mildly retarded. Our mother knew better from observing him in real life not testing. He had tutoring, a few years in private schools, and repeated 7th grade. He graduated college magna cum laude with a double major in history & classical studies (he reads Latin). He also aced a year of calculus. He is gainfully employed as a WAN administrator & owns his own home. Your son may need more help than some kids but he’s no lost cause.This brings tears to my eyes. My brother’s struggles in school were so hard for him. Good luck to you & your little guy. Have hope.

    • Guest
      July 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Thank you everyone for letting me vent here and for your advice.
      We turned to testing because we knew we were in over our heads. His issues with reading are severe and that sets him back in everything else. We wanted to know how to help him and we did receive a diagnosis of ADHD. The majority of the report addressed the IQ issue. The recommendations were unhelpful and upsetting. Moving forward we may re test with another doctor.

    • Amy M
      July 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      My husband has ADHD, he is currently in school getting his 2nd master’s degree (to be a guidance counselor) and he is working to be an ADHD counselor as well…you can get help for your son, if that diagnosis sticks. ADHD is frustrating, but all hope is not lost. There are a variety of therapies…see if your pediatrician can recommend a good psych with experience in childhood ADHD. Someone who can coach/consult with you and help you work with your son to do things that can complement drug therapies (if you choose to go that route). Not quackery–please don’t listen to anyone trying to sell you “muscle testing” or dubious supplements. I’m talking more things like relaxation techniques, picking battles, tips about how to better organize and manage time, tips about things that are more important to be vigilant about with ADHD kids(sleep, exercise, diet) and that kind of thing.

      For some reading, start with Dr. Hallowell (Driven to Distraction) and go from there. Good luck, I hope you can find what you need for your son.

    • July 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Its important to remember that everyone has talents, his may be something that IQ tests cannot measure like being a caring individual, being musically talented, being a hard worker, being a natural leader, an amazing artist, etc. Just because tests cannot measure these qualities does not mean they aren’t valuable. In my personal life I value kindness a lot more than intellect.

      or hey, the test could be wrong. It may be worth getting a second opinion.

    • Expat in Germany
      July 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

      I worry about my son too. He is uncoordinated and I worry that other problems will pop up as he grows older. This article on iq made me feel better. It isn’t some constant measure of his abilities for ever more. It is highly subject to external influences.. The ADHD, for instance.

      • Guest
        July 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

        I like it! I am also reading “Ungifted” by Scott Kaufman. Well, I was until it randomly disappeared from my nook. I was enjoying it though.

    • Sullivan ThePoop
      July 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      I am so sorry to hear this, but I think you needn’t worry about how much fish you ate while pregnant as there was a recent study that showed no difference between the children of mothers who had high levels of mercury from eating fish and ones that did not. Also, the breastfeeding thing is so minimal you should never beat yourself up about that. I did not breastfeed and my children all have IQs over 125. My mom did not breastfeed me and my IQ is ridiculously high, not to mention I have multiple advanced degrees. She did breastfeed my brother and his IQ is also well above average, nothing like mine, and he has never done anything with his life other than marry into a prominent family and live off their money.

  23. Amy M
    July 30, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Man, it seems like these come up every week. Oh well, that ship has long since sailed for my family. I’m not worried about my children though. They are lucky to have many of the other factors that are correlated with higher IQ and adult success: being raised in a middle class two parent household with access to health care, books all over the house/we read a LOT to them/frequent trips to the library, parents who care about their education and who are willing to invest time (when the time comes, they are not in school yet) to see they get help should they need it. And my husband and I aren’t exactly morons ourselves though I know I’m not near the level of many in this crowd. 🙂 Anyway, they’ll be fine, despite the formula. It would be a huge waste of time for me to get all hung up on the fact that my children weren’t breastfed 4.5 yrs ago–didn’t really bother me then, doesn’t bother me now.

  24. Rochester mama
    July 30, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    I want to see a study showing why women end up not breast feeding. I bet never hearing that good mom’s breast feed isn’t on the list.

    • stacey
      July 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      This is exactly it.

      These lactivists seem to think women are just ignorant to BF, like moms are thinking “Oh, you want me to do what? I didn’t know you used boobs for feeding babies! Wow, who knew? I better BF now”.

      Of course we know about it. I don’t think there is a mom in America that thinks BF is inferior, and we all hear how it is best (liquid gold)!

      We don’t do it for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with having to work in the modern world. I also think having active fathers mean more FF because we are getting more help from the other adult who is around the most, and they can’t BF.

      Modern women also have more control over, and ownership of, their bodies than ever before. We are more hesitant to give everything up to nurse for 2 years, especially when we do not have too. THIS is the point the lactivists fight, which is ironic, as its anti feminist to the core to demand moms give their body to another human.

      Motherhood is always going to be a sacrifice of some things, but FF means you no longer have to sacrifice your body any longer than pregnancy and birth. This is BIG. And patriarchists hate it. There is a reason the fundamental religions push BF, as it keeps mom where she belongs- in the home.

    • carovee
      July 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      In the study in question the average number of months breastfeeding exclusively was around 2.5.

    • auntbea
      July 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      If only they had somehow, somewhere, heard that Breast is Best! It’s the best kept secret of the Western world.

  25. Zornorph
    July 30, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Oh, it will make the lacto-nazis feel smug I suppose. I can’t be bothered to care. I would think reading to your children every night would probably help more than boob juice, but what do I know? I’ve never done a study on it. I’m still waiting for a study on the effects of ‘birthy smells’.

  26. fiftyfifty1
    July 30, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Small differences may not matter on an individual level, but they may matter on a population level. So the fact that the measured difference in IQ is small is not what makes me concerned about this study.

    My real concern is the potential for residual confounding. All this breastfeeding research reminds me so much of the Hormone Replacement Therapy research. Study after study after study, even those that were supposedly controlled for every imaginable variable (smoking status, weight, education, income etc) all showed that HRT was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and dementia and a host of other ills. Every media report jumped, just as these authors do, from seeing a correlation to declaring a causation. It took a large RANDOMIZED study to show that HRT actually caused INCREASED heart attacks, strokes and dementia as well as breast cancer.

    Mothers who breastfeed are self selecting. This is true no matter the IQ or education or income. They tend to me more health-focused than their peers who choose to bottlefeed on average. It’s called “The Healthy Adherent Effect”. The ones who succeed in breastfeeding tend to have many more unmeasurable resources than the ones who don’t succeed. I think of an example of a patient of mine, an African-American teenager from a very bad neighborhood. She was a highschool dropout. She lived in poverty. BUT (and this made all the difference) she lived with her grandmother who had trained as a community health outreach peer. The grandma convinced the teen to breastfeed and supported her through it. The grandma also read to the baby from day #1 and started singing the baby the ABCs etc (all unheard of in this population). Did the baby thrive? Yes she did. Was it the breastmilk? I highly doubt it.

    • desiree
      July 30, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      I really and truly do not understand why researchers persist in doing more observational research when there’s a fantastic model for randomized data collection in breastfeeding research: the PROBIT studies out of Belarus. They randomized a huge group of women into additional breastfeeding education and support and standard of care, and got highly differing rates of breastfeeding in the two groups. Brilliant.

      They looked at IQ by the way and found a small difference, on the order of 3 points. There were flaws there, most notably they didn’t seem to investigate what the non-breastfeeding group was getting (just presumed it was commercial formula, which may be absolutely true, I don’t know anything about Belarus), and in many cases, the doctors who administered the IQ tests were the children’s primary care doctors, and therefore weren’t blinded to whether or not they were breastfed.

      Still, an order of magnitude better than this study. Why not randomize moms into one group that’s given resources and information about extended breastfeeding (including hospital-grade pumps) and one standard of care? I’ll bet you would see a huge difference in the number of women breastfeeding to a year in the two randomized groups. What a data mine that would be.

      • carovee
        July 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

        Interesting. The study Amy is referring to also found a 3 point IQ difference between kids every breastfed and kids never breastfed after adjusting for lots of other variables (mom iq, family income, home environment, prenatal smoking, child gestational age, etc). The biggest effect should be between these two groups. I have a hard time getting worked up over a 3pt IQ increase.

      • AmyP
        July 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

        “There were flaws there, most notably they didn’t seem to investigate what the non-breastfeeding group was getting (just presumed it was commercial formula, which may be absolutely true, I don’t know anything about Belarus).”

        That is a very good point. I don’t know Belarus, but I do know a fair bit about Eastern Europe, and I would not count on commercial formula being used faithfully by Belarus families–it’s actually quite likely that they are shifting to cow’s milk and table foods as soon as they can.

      • auntbea
        July 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

        Funding a randomized educational intervention = $. Using existing data = 0.

      • Hannah
        July 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

        There’s also this interesting study that compares the effects of breastfeeding in societies with different socioeconomic associations with breastfeeding:

        The IQ effect was the only one that turned up in both samples.

      • fiftyfifty1
        July 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

        Yes, they were getting commercial formula. Belarus was chosen due to having universal clean water and access to commercial formula and baseline low breastfeeding rates (so that there was room to change the rates with an intervention). That is the problem with considering a randomized study done in the U.S.–the “breast is best” message is already in play here and rates are already fairly high so it would be unlikely that an intervention would increase rates much. You can see this in the fact that Baby Friendly Hospital Initiatives don’t increase rates here. The low-lying fruit has already been picked.
        Yes, I love PROBIT too. I love the fact that it shows that overweight+obesity is actually 16% HIGHER in children who were in the enhanced breastfeeding group. And that tiny IQ difference? It was found in only one sub-test of all the tests they did. The other tests showed no difference. You can tell the results were not what the authors were expecting/hoping for. They do their best to explain away the obesity result and chalk it up to chance (despite being statistically significant) but trumpet the IQ findings on the one subtest. Lame.

        • DiomedesV
          July 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

          I disagree. I thought the discussion in the IQ paper was fine. What was especially telling was the extent to which pediatrician and teacher assessment could be easily biased in favor of BF infants, and the authors were honest about it. That alone is an important contribution.

          In fact, if I recollect, the researchers essentially “peeled” away the different contributing artifacts to the higher IQ finding, discussing the confounding associated with each one, until they were left with a small residual effect in one test, which was admittedly small. I thought it was fair and far more than many researchers would have done.

    • auntbea
      July 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Yeah, I would say the small effect is the *least* important problem in this study.

      My VPN isn’t working. Does anyone have the number of models they had to run to find that significant interaction between breastfeeding and fish consumption?

  27. July 30, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I have no idea how they could go about proving a causative relationship anyway, factors contributing to IQ are not fully understood and can’t realistically be adjusted for. The best they can do is correlation- who cares?

    • Jocelyn
      July 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Well, most people don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation. The media that reports on these studies certainly doesn’t. And so a study that shows any type of correlation (even if there’s a ton of confounding factors) is touted as “Look! This definitely causes this other thing!” and everyone believes it.

      • auntbea
        July 30, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

        And when a different, better finding comes out,everyone becomes convinced that science is a failed enterprise because otherwise why would the answer keep changing.

    • GiddyUpGo123
      July 31, 2013 at 1:48 am #

      Exactly. Does the study follow kids who come from similar backgrounds or is it just a random sampling of breastfed and non-breastfed children?

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