A number of studies suggest a positive association between breastfeeding
and cognitive development in early and middle childhood. However, the only
previous study that investigated the relationship between breastfeeding and
intelligence in adults had several methodological shortcomings.
To determine the association between duration of infant breastfeeding
and intelligence in young adulthood.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Prospective longitudinal birth cohort study conducted in a sample of
973 men and women and a sample of 2280 men, all of whom were born in Copenhagen,
Denmark, between October 1959 and December 1961. The samples were divided
into 5 categories based on duration of breastfeeding, as assessed by physician
interview with mothers at a 1-year examination.
Main Outcome Measures
Intelligence, assessed using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)
at a mean age of 27.2 years in the mixed-sex sample and the Børge Priens
Prøve (BPP) test at a mean age of 18.7 years in the all-male sample.
Thirteen potential confounders were included as covariates: parental social
status and education; single mother status; mother's height, age, and weight
gain during pregnancy and cigarette consumption during the third trimester;
number of pregnancies; estimated gestational age; birth weight; birth length;
and indexes of pregnancy and delivery complications.
Duration of breastfeeding was associated with significantly higher scores
on the Verbal, Performance, and Full Scale WAIS IQs. With regression adjustment
for potential confounding factors, the mean Full Scale WAIS IQs were 99.4,
101.7, 102.3, 106.0, and 104.0 for breastfeeding durations of less than 1
month, 2 to 3 months, 4 to 6 months, 7 to 9 months, and more than 9 months,
respectively (P = .003 for overall F test). The corresponding
mean scores on the BPP were 38.0, 39.2, 39.9, 40.1, and 40.1 (P = .01 for overall F test).
Independent of a wide range of possible confounding factors, a significant
positive association between duration of breastfeeding and intelligence was
observed in 2 independent samples of young adults, assessed with 2 different