There are countless valid reasons for a person not to breastfeed their child. First of all, having a newborn is one of the most stressful events that one can experience and breastfeeding can be overwhelming.
Some people can't breastfeed for physical or emotional reasons while others aren't able to because of commitments to work or school. There is also a socio-economic component to breastfeeding.
A Department of Health report discovered that mothers in wealthier neighborhoods were 1.6 times more likely to exclusively breastfeed for the first five days of their baby's life than were mothers in poorer neighborhoods.
The problem is that parents are bombarded with the "breast is best" message and want their kids to have the benefits of breastfeeding, so they feel they're letting their child down by bottle-feeding.
This opens the door to feelings of guilt at a time that is already stressful. The stress associated with not breastfeeding can make someone more prone to postpartum mental health issues and feelings of deep shame.
No one should feel shame for doing what's right for both themselves and their families.
A new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine should make parents who bottle-fed their children feel better about themselves. It found that breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they reach the age of 16.
Improved cognitive function has long been seen as one of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding. A 2015 study published in The Lancet, concluded: "breastfeeding is associated with improved performance in intelligence tests 30 years later, and might have an important effect in real life, by increasing educational attainment and income in adulthood."
However, the new study from PROBIT is the largest randomized controlled trial on human lactation with 13,557 participants and according to The New York Times is "a more rigorous type of study that better controls for socioeconomic and family variables."
Breastfeeding and socioeconomic status are inextricably linked so it's hard for researchers to pinpoint whether it's breastfeeding or other factors such as education level that affect IQ results.
The study found that children who were breastfed had higher IQ scores at the age of 6.5 years. But found that by age 16, there was "little evidence of beneficial effects on overall neurocognitive function."
That means that although breastfed children do get an early IQ bump, it will diminish by the age of 16. The study did find that breastfed children did receive "a modest benefit" when it comes to their verbal skills.
"Results of our findings at age 16 combined with results at age 6.5 years suggest that long-term effects of breastfeeding on neurocognitive development decrease in magnitude with advancing age, and the persistent benefit seems to be limited to verbal function," the study says.
The bottom line is that although breastfeeding does provide more benefits for a child, parents who bottle-feed shouldn't have to worry anymore if it will affect their SAT scores.
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