A new study found that children who were exclusively breastfed for at least the first three months of life scored about six points higher on IQ tests at six years old then those who were bottle fed or partially bottle fed. As an adoptive parent, do you feel a twinge of guilt when you hear about this type of study? Yes, it is possible to breastfeed adopted babies for some people who are able to plan a few months in advance. However, it takes a lot of effort, doesn’t always work, and if the birthmother changes her mind, you are lactating for nothing. Not only did these children have higher IQs but also tested higher in other measure of cognitive development, such as thinking, learning and memory. I think I am feeling more guilt here as an adoptive mother. But wait, guess what, the researchers are not sure why breastfeeding might increase cognitive skills.
They say it could be something in the milk, or it could be the physical contact between the mother and the baby. This is because mothers whom breastfeed must hold their babies really close and tend to look at them during feedings. While breastfeeding a mother cannot put her baby down and prop it for even a few minutes. Are you feeling a little relieved now? I know I was.
I was so happy finally to have my newborn daughter in my arms that I rarely put her down. I held her very close during every feeding and even switched sides after burps. I am sure I am not alone in this. Most adoptive parents wait a long time to be chosen for a newborn. We tend to be a little more settled down and little older. Hopefully, this translates to adoptive parents holding their infants close during every feeding just like I did.
Infants in Belarus assigned to exclusive breastfeeding were 7,108; another 6,781 infants received the usual practice of breastfeeding plus other foods. When these children were six and a half a standard IQ test was administered to them. Those children who were exclusively breastfed scored, on average, 7.5 points higher in verbal intelligence, 2.9 points higher in nonverbal intelligence, and 5.9 points higher in overall intelligence.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the best way to improve infants’ overall health and build their immune system. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration breast-fed infants have fewer hospital admissions, ear infections, diarrhea, rashes, allergies, and other medical problems than bottle fed babies.
Photo Credit: 2007 Julia Fuller.