Is It the Breastfed Brain?
What produces this advantage, then? The authors suggest that breastfeeding might influence brain development, which could then lead to better education opportunities, job prospects, and greater earning potential: "One of the most consistent findings in the published literature on the long-term impact of infant-feeding is that breast feeding is associated with improved neurocognitive development, which could influence future educational and occupational success and hence social mobility." Breastfeeding may improve long-term health as well, influencing better social standing later in life.
Or the Breastfeeding Bond?
But the study does raise some questions about breastfeeding, and what aspect of the activity has an impact on a child's ultimate success. Dr. Martin observes, "The question is whether that's an effect of the breastfeeding—something to do with the biological process which has an effect on brain development, or about the activity itself—such as improved bonding with mother, or that people who were breastfed were raised in a better social environment."
Dr. Martin hopes to do more work in this field to establish a specific explanation for his findings. As Dr. Andrew Lyon, a consultant neonatologist and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, points out, "The findings warrant further investigation before firm conclusions can be drawn."