Objective: To determine the relationship between type of infant feeding and mental and psychomotor development at age 18 months.
Method: A follow-up study of children born to primigravidae living in Dundee and booked into antenatal clinics in the City of Dundee (Local Authority District) from 1 May 1985 to 30 April 1986. The study population was 846 first born singletons, of whom 592 attended for developmental assessment at age 18 months. The main outcome measures were the Bayley Scales of Infant Mental and Motor Development.
Results: Higher mental development was significantly related to breast feeding on discharge from hospital and according to the health visitors' notes at about 2 weeks after discharge after allowing for partner's social class, mother's education, height, alcohol and cigarette consumption; placental weight and the child's sex, birth weight and gestational age at birth. After adjustment for statistically significant variables, the difference in Bayley mental development index between breast and bottle fed infants was between 3.7 and 5.7 units depending on the source of feeding data. No differences were found for psychomotor development or behaviour.
Conclusion: The study provides further evidence of a robust statistical association between type of feeding and child intelligence. However, the literature is replete with suggestions for potential confounding variables which offer alternative causal explanations. To unravel what is an important clinical and public health question, further research should concentrate on randomized trials of supplemented formula feeds for children of mothers opting for bottle feeding and on epidemiological studies designed to disentangle the relation between method of feeding, parental intelligence and social environment.