Thanks for the Mammaries: Prolonged Breastfeeding Impacts Intelligence to Age 30, Says Lancet.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with Permission

Image via Shutterstock. Used with Permission

The link between prolonged breastfeeding and intelligence is well-established but this study, published in the esteemed British medical journal, The Lancet,  is the first to show just how long the advantages given to children through extended nursing continues to impact their development.

“Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability. What is unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class. Previous studies from developed countries have been criticized for failing to disentangle the effect of breastfeeding from that of socioeconomic advantage, but our work addresses this issue for the first time….”

This was huge, very well-designed study examining 3500 newborns over the course of 30 years.

“….While the study showed increased adult intelligence, longer schooling, and higher adult earnings at all duration levels of breastfeeding, the longer a child was breastfed for (up to 12 months), the greater the magnitude of the benefits. For example, an infant who had been breastfed for at least a year gained a full four IQ points (about a third of a standard deviation above the average), had 0.9 years more schooling (about a quarter of a standard deviation above the average), and a higher income of 341 reais per month (equivalent to about one third of the average income level) at the age of 30 years, compared to those breastfed for less than one month.”  READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE

In Parenting with Grace and its companion for parents of infants and toddlers, Then Comes Baby, my wife and I show how the Theology of the Body reveals God’s plan for parenting.  Pope St John Paul the Great taught that by studying and prayerfully reflecting on God’s design of the body we could learn a great deal about his plan for relationships.  The more we are willing to learn from the theology of our biology, the more we are able to receive all the benefits God wants to give us that enable us to live life as a gift.   Extraordinarily well-designed studies like this give empirical weight to the theological claims made by Pope St John Paul the Great.   By opening their hearts to both the Theology of the Body and the science that reveals the theology of our biology, we can give our children all the gifts God wants to convey to them through us and enable them to grow into men and women who can glorify God in every aspect of their lives.