Breastfeeding algebra (with the emphasis on the bra)

Okaaaay – so run that past me again. Breastfeeding doesn’t boost your baby’s IQ, you say? Hmmmm. Oh, I see, breastfed babies are smarter because their mothers are clever in the first place, not because of any advantage of breastfeeding itself? Have I got that right? And this fantastic piece of research is from where, exactly? Oh, it was the British Medical Journal study carried out by the Medical Research Council and University of Edinburgh. Right. And you say you analysed data from more than 5,000 children and 3,000 mothers in the US. And you found that mothers who breastfed tended to be more intelligent, more highly educated, and likely to provide a more stimulating home environment, and when this fact was taken into account, most of the relationship between breastfeeding and the child’s intelligence disappeared. I think I’m following.

Oh dear – so now it’s not even enough to breastfeed, you’ve got to work out if you’re the kind of person who breastfeeds. And how do you do that, I wonder? Hmmm – I guess if I were more intelligent, I’d know.

At least I can work out the possibilities. Two variables, so we must have four permutations. So here we go: let B signify ‘breastfeeding’, let NB signify not ‘breastfeeding’. Let K represent ‘the kind of woman who breastfeeds’, and let NK represent ‘not the kind ….’ – you get the gist.

B + K = more intelligent child (lets hope they get a good enough job to pay for your boob job in a few years time).
NB + K = just as intelligent child, and perky tits.
B + NK = completely traumatised mother, probably, and no increase in child’s intelligence, so you might as well not have bothered (but since you’re not very bright yourself, you probably didn’t think of that).
NB + NK = a complete waste of space.

Actually, before anyone starts throwing rocks at me, let me hasten to say that there are heaps of benefits to breastfeeding. For example, I never left my tits behind in anyone’s fridge by mistake when I went to visit. And I’m sure there are many more … please feel free to contribute.

Just two more things. The lead researcher on this study was called …. Mr Der!

And if you’re wondering why the picture of Mr Depp (and do I really need a reason?), just read this lovely haiku by Jenny, over at Jennyology, which inspired my rather random post. Since Jenny has gone AWOL, the link that was here doesn’t work any more, so I’ll perform it for you now. Are you sitting uncomfortably?

hem hem (clears throat)

To My Fallen Comrades

Breastfeeding is best
For baby, but not for breast.
Pirate’s sunken chest.

Curtseys daintily. Thank you … thank you all …


20 thoughts on “Breastfeeding algebra (with the emphasis on the bra)

  1. It’s an interesting study, this, but it has some important flaws which are pointed out by one or two of the respondents to the paper. Essentially, the validity of the conclusion is undermined by two issues, one of sampling, the other of measurement. The sampling issue is that in this cohort of children, the breastfeeding population is fundamentally different in terms of its demographic characteristics (crucially IQ) from the non-breastfeeding population. There is very little overlap between the two groups in terms of IQ levels. This is of course the reason why a study like this is conducted, to determine whether an outcome attributed to breastfeeding is in fact to do with other (confounding) factors correlated with breastfeeding, in this case IQ. In principle, a large enough study should be able to separate out these effects, but when the populations are so different that is very difficult.

    It is made more difficult because of the measuring issue. The children in this study are classified as either ‘breastfed’ or ‘not breastfed’ – but breastfed could mean breastfed once at birth or exclusively for six months. Now, if most mothers with lower IQs do not breastfeed, it is reasonable to infer that of the minority with lower IQs who do breastfeed, many will be at the lower end of this continuum. Yet their children will be classified as ‘breastfed’, the same as all the offspring of the higher-IQ mothers: in other words, babies of lower-IQ mothers classified as ‘breastfed’ may have been subject to quite a different feeding regime to babies of higher-IQ mothers, rendering the comparison somewhat suspect.

    In truth, the evidence for a link or the absence of a link between breastfeeding and IQ seems shaky. But as the authors of the article itself do acknowledge, there are wider nutritional benefits which are better evidenced.

  2. No reason is ever needed for a photo of Mr. Depp!

    You had me rolling with this post! I’m not sure what kind of woman I am, so I guess we’ll go with B + NK or B + K. Either way I’m completely traumatised and hopelessly confused!

    Oh & losing weight quickly was a nice bonus.

  3. Mine failed at the job–horror of a c/s, anemia, pumped my nipples off for 6 weeks–and my breasts are quite saggy.

    Hence, TB(6)-NB-MK*-ST**=wild child who refuses to talk or poop, loves to color on walls and wakes before the sun + one tired, but mostly happy, albeit saggy, mama.

    *Maybe Kind
    **Saggy tits

    Off to look for your book. 🙂

  4. When I breastfed my daughter a Victoria’s Secret catalogue arrived at our house(My daughter was about a year and a half)…
    My husband opens up the catalogue and shows it to my daughter and squeals’Look a Take out Menu!”
    Don’t think higher intelligence ever came into my mind at that lowpoint…

  5. Thank God this post wasn’t about Johnny wanting to breastfeed! Based on the google hits I get from men looking to breastfeed it’s more common than I ever imagined. Wonder what Mr Der has to say about that? Does or does not breastfeeding your son make him want to nurse when he’s grown?

  6. Ha! I laughed out loud at this post. As a mum who was totally horrified by the whole breastfeeding concept (and put off by a mad NCT class where the breastfeeding teacher declared that there IS no alternative as bottle milk has only been avaiable for fifty or so years. Er… sorry, why did women need wet nurses then? And why did babies die when they couldn’t get one?)- and when I did get round to it I hated it. I felt like a milk cow and couldn’t wait to stop. When I got to my fourth child I only managed three weeks because she fed and fed and fed and I had three other children to look after. Something had to give…

    I have no problem with others who bf, but I hate being made a pariah because I didn’t do it for long.

    It’s just another thing for the modern mother to feel guilty about.

    Oohh do beat me over the head some more!!

    And Johnny Depp needs no explanation!!

    love Jane

  7. I don’t know if should be posting here, given that I am a newly married man with no children – and thus little recent breastfeeding experience.


    It always makes me sad to read about women being criticised for breastfeeding in public. I am just staggered at the rudeness of some people – especially those who go so far as to call the police about it. And even more staggered by the police asking the woman to move on, rather than defending her right to feed her baby.

    But this study has helped me to understand a little about it. You see the anti-breastfeeders are just stupid people. Now I feel that my pro-breastfeeding biggotry is justified.

  8. I think some other benefits need to be mentioned about breastfeeding, like boosted immunity and no colic. And holy moly, the savings. Also the ability to drowse in bed and still feed the infant. I am pretty pro-breastfeeding, despite having found it difficult in some ways and actually gaining weight during this very hormonal process.

  9. I breastfed because it was a piece of piss and I was lazy and didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night and get a bottle out of the fridge. But laziness has it’s payback, in the form of saggy tits.

    It seems that those, like me, with small tits to start with, get the worst stretch marks when the things turn into Jordan type zepellins. Do you agree? Are the ones that start with big ones less likely to get hideous stretch marks? Maybe you could conduct a new very useful survey on this topic.

  10. So if you didn’t breastfeed, you’re probably not as smart and/or stimulating. So you won’t really notice if your baby isn’t as smart? I didn’t breastfeed past six weeks, so this makes complete sense to me (remember, I’m not that clever).

  11. I once left my breasts in someone’s fridge. Don’t bring up such horrific memories. No, seriously, the breast is best but b/c of feeding all three of my babies on my homemade nourishment (ew, that sounds gross) my breasts are a couple of deflated balloon bags that clap for me when I lean over. Yay … you breastfed. Now we applaud you like a couple of flapjacks.

  12. yes indeedy – i did breastfeed the twins and for a frighteningly long time too. and, yes, there are many benefits. BUT i always feel the slogan ‘breast is best’ carries with it the subtext ‘anything else is pants’. if it works, it’s great. but if it doesn’t … cracked nipples, mastitis, babies not thriving, or having to go back to work (plus the rest of the world seeming to fill their EU diary quota with ease) can conspire to make women feel like they’ve failed almost before they begin. we spoke to several women who felt that way while researching the book. i guess what it comes down to is, let’s not use our breasts to beat other women up. eeeeuw – horrid horrid image! sorry everyone (but you know what i mean – don’tcha?). equally – let’s not allow anyone to prevent us feeding our babies where and how we want! there’s a sick irony in a society where you’re confronted with naked breasts on the front cover of newspapers and magazines, but a naked breast – or even a discreetly covered up one – being used for breastfeeding is an affront to public decency! grrrrrr

  13. I didn’t breastfeed so am puzzled by my erudite lawyer daughters high IQ.

    Should I go and drool in the corner now?

  14. Well I breasted one and bottled the other. My reasoning was simple: I wanted to maximize my chances of sibling rivalry (“Mom loved me more, she gave me breast milk”).

    But I do so like it when statistics are analyzed and put into proper context. 99.455% of people blindly believe all statistical evidence. 100% of all people need to practice critical thought.

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