A long-term British study finds that breastfed children are more likely to move up the social ladder and be better educated. The researchers caution that other factors may be involved as well. The old maxim applies: Correlation does not equal causation. Still it’s something to keep in mind.
The study began in 1937 and tracked 1,414 British children into late adulthood.
It found those breastfed as infants were 41% more likely to move up the social ladder, according to Richard Martin, BM, BS, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Bristol, in England, and an author of the study.[…] The prevalence of breastfeeding ranged from 45% to 85%, but whether a mother chose to breastfeed did not depend on household income, what the household spent on food, the number of siblings, birth order, or the social class of the family at the start of the study, the researchers found. […] The 1990s surveys showed that breastfed infants were more likely to complete secondary school; with 27% of breastfed versus 20% of bottle-fed graduating.
Breastfed babies were also more likely to move up in social class, based on occupation. Fifty-eight percent of breastfed infants moved up, compared with 50% of bottle-fed ones.
Fifty percent of bottle-fed infants stayed in the same social class or went downward, while only 42% of the breast-fed infants stayed the same or moved down.
The longer a child was breastfed, the more likely he or she was to be upwardly mobile.[…] But he notes that in pre-World War II days, when these study participants were infants, formulas were often homemade “and probably inconsistent,” and that could have affected the results.
Given the standardized commercial formulas prevalent today, Woo says he is not sure the study findings would come out the same.