Does breastfeeding at six months predict cognitive development?

Aust N Z J Public Health. 1998 Apr;22(2):232-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.1998.tb01179.x.


There is controversy over whether the method of feeding in infancy affects intellectual development. We investigated the relationship between breastfeeding status at 6 months of age and long-term cognitive development in a cohort of 375 children born in Port Pirie, South Australia, between 1979 and 1982. Cognitive assessments were conducted at ages 2, 4, 7 and 11 to 13 years. After adjustment for sociodemographic, environmental and biomedical factors, a small, statistically non-significant, beneficial effect of breastfeeding on cognitive functioning was observed. Compared with the bottle-fed children, the breast-fed children had a 3.4 (95% CI -0.1 to 6.9), 1.3 (-2.3 to 4.9), 1.2 (-2.0 to 4.4) and 0.8 (-1.9 to 3.5) point advantage on the Bayley Mental Developmental Index at age 2 years, the McCarthy General Cognitive Index at age 4 years and the Wechsler Full-Scale IQ at ages 7 and 11 to 13 years, respectively. Our data suggest that any beneficial effect of breastfeeding on cognitive development is quite small in magnitude.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bottle Feeding*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child Development*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Australia