Final Thoughts on the Breastfeeding/IQ Controversy

The internet is abuzz with controversy this week after a new study was released last week claiming that breastfeeding only makes babies smarter if they are already genetically predisposition to be smarter. One article, published by Newsweek implies that perhaps we won’t all be breastfeeding as much now that we all know it won’t make our kids smarter unless they have the gene for it. The unsaid conclusion is that breast milk and formula are equal. All I can say is give me a break!

What I find interesting is that no one ever mentions exactly why all these studies are being done on how breast milk works. While I’m sure there’s a certain amount of scientific inquiry, did you realize that at least some of these projects are paid for by formula companies? Why? Because formula companies are constantly trying to mimic breast milk. Why? Because breast milk is better for babies.

What has eluded my abilities to reason though, is why a scientific community would say anything but breast milk is better for babies. There is never a situation in which breast milk isn’t better for babies. Even if we didn’t know as much as we know about breast milk, even if we weren’t aware of its numerous benefits, common sense would tell us that breast milk is better for babies. Why?

Our species would have never survived without breast milk. In fact, to reverse the analogy, I would suggest that if the whole world were to begin systematically feeding their infants formula, and breastfeeding became extinct, humans would die out. Sounds far fetched? In the sense that the trend is not moving away from breastfeeding but rather towards it, perhaps it is. (In other words, the whole world is not going to start formula feeding their infants.)

However, let’s simply consider the immunological aspects of breastfeeding. WHO says that if just some of the mothers in the world would start breastfeeding, the infant mortality rate would drop significantly. In fact, WHO is now starting to recommend that mothers (in developing countries) with HIV, breastfeed because if they don’t, it is statistically more likely that those babies will die from preventable diseases than it is that they will contract HIV. But in the light of that evidence, I’m supposed to believe that formula is better, or at least just as good.

So, unlike this Newsweek article implies, it is irrelevant to me that my kids may not be smarter from breastfeeding. In fact, any other study that comes out is irrelevant to me as well. Breastfeeding is just common sense.

Note: This is not a tirade against mothers who formula feed. We are all moms and we all love our babies dearly. This is a commentary on some recently published articles and studies. For further discussion on this issue, you can see this thread in the forums. I would also suggest reading these articles:

Let’s Be Honest About Breastmilk and Formula

Ask a Baby Blogger: Are You Anti-Formula?