Dear Free-Range Kids: I had a friend whose wife went into labor sixteen weeks early due to all kinds of complications. She was in the ICU for nearly a month, massive blood loss, several major surgeries, medically induced coma, you name it. Then she developed a serious infection. They weren’t going to put her on the antibiotic the disease specialist recommended because, get this, it’s not safe for breastfeeding..My friend (normally the most mild-mannered guy you could hope to meet) pitched, bar none, the best fit I have ever witnessed in my life and eventually sanity reigned. Let’s just say their daughter was not breasted and yet somehow she’s alive and doing well 18 years later. Talk about a pendulum that has swung too far.
Researchers studied 8,000 children in Ireland. At ages 3 and 5, the kids took standardized tests to measure cognitive abilities. Overall, the breast-fed kids scored a tad higher.
“But [the difference] wasn’t big enough to show statistical significance,” says study author Lisa-Christine Girard, a child-development researcher at University College Dublin.
In other words, the differences in scores were so small that researchers consider it a statistical wash. “We weren’t able to find a direct causal link between breast-feeding and children’s cognitive outcomes,” Girard says.
The link they did find was a small bump in hyperactive behavior at age 3 among the bottle-fed, which disappeared by age 5. That sounds pretty insignificant to me.
All of which is to say: Do what works best for you, and do not feel you are hurting OR creating a super baby by virtue of the way you feed your child. There are so many, many, many influences on kids — their parents, their siblings, their genes, their food, the air they breathe, the microbes in their guts — let’s stop focusing on breastfeeding as if it is the be all and end all of child development.
Perfection (or what is believed to be perfect at a given moment in history) has never been required for a child to grow up just fine. No need to play the perfect way, or utter the perfect number of words, or find the perfect class, etc. etc. etc. Such pressure! Give our species some credit for resilience, and give decent parents a break. – L