Another breast feeding study is flawed

Of course that’s not the headline. Nobody in the mainstream press will run with that headline and plenty of the uber lactators will be patting themselves on the back smugly, while women who for whatever reason couldn’t manage to breastfeed will feel like the biggest failures on planet Earth. What am I talking about? There’s another new study, this time from Brazil, into the link between breastfeeding and intelligence in babies.

Normally these studies are pretty flawed because they fail to take into account that people in higher socio-economic groups are much more likely to breast feed, and that these families are more likely to spend additional time with their kids that aids their development. It’s chicken and egg- do kids who breastfed do better because they’re breastfed or they have the attention, chances and opportunity afforded to them by class? It’s a control bias that’s hard to remove. The professor behind this study says this has been factored in and everyone has therefore jumped up and down in excitement.

As Dr Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, said: “There have been many studies on the link between breastfeeding and IQ over the years with many having had their validity challenged [due to external non-controlled factors].”

However, it looks like this study is equally as flawed, if the initial analysis by Stuart Ritchie, a Research Fellow at the Psychology Department at The University of Edinburgh is anything to go by:



Basically he’s saying that they should have done an initial IQ test on the mums and didn’t, which invalidates the results because you now cannot tell whether the results are affected by the maternal IQ or not.
This is a subject quite close to my heart because I saw my wife driven to the verge of a nervous breakdown by a plethora of breast is best “experts” when we had our first child. She was made to feel like a second class mother and a failure throughout her breast feeding problems, something that affected her relationship with each of our children in the long term and you can read her view on it all here. Yes, we (well my wife) had a bad experience and I’m sure there are plenty of other people that had great experiences but like most things in life, personal experience colours things somewhat.