Just when you thought giving birth was the hard part, you hit some serious breastfeeding hiccups (not the cute kind your baby makes after dinner). But as any new mother can attest, breastfeeding isn’t easy. In fact, you’ve probably wondered if it’s really worth the blood (yes, blood), sweat, and tears.
Apparently, experts at Ohio State University had a similar question. Researchers compared 1,773 sibling pairs—kids from four to 14-years-old who were breastfed to their brothers or sisters who weren’t breastfed.
Contrary to popular belief that breastfeeding leads to smarter, healthier, more well-behaved kids, the pairs showed no significant difference in body mass index, obesity, hyperactivity, reading comprehension, vocabulary, math skills, parental attachment, and memory-based intelligence. The study was published in Social Science & Medicine.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding
What's behind the surprising findings? Researchers think socioeconomics come into play. Meaning, wealthier mothers are more likely to have healthy children, and they're also more likely to breastfeed. By comparing children from the same mothers, researchers account for this variable, and suggest that breastfeeding can't take all the credit for healthy children.
Before you toss your breast pump, this study is hardly the final word on the topic, says Nancy Hurst, Ph.D., R.N., IBCLC, international board certified lactation consultant and the Director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Many other studies have shown strong benefits of breastfeeding, including a reduced risk of childhood cancers, improved IQ, and a stronger immune system,” she says. Plus, you can benefit from breastfeeding. It may ward off postpartum depression and reduce your risk of certain cancers. This research didn’t look at any of these outcomes.
So while this study can give you some peace of mind if you’re experiencing breastfeeding problems, there are plenty of reasons to keep at it. If you're stugging, try using a lactation consultant to help you over the hurdles. (Find one through the International Lactation Consultant Association.)