More infant feeding research

The Telegraph and Observer have both published articles based on Maria Iacovou’s research (presumably this working paper) on the cognitive effects of breastfeeding.  It’s based on data from ALSPAC, a detailed and interesting (if slightly flawed) longitudinal dataset from Bristol.  Once again, the articles are reasonably balanced, although they do tend to presume a causal relationship between feeding and SATS scores…

Iacovou spoke at Southampton last week.  Of course she’s very careful not to infer causality in her work…  Still, she and her colleagues have controlled for just about everything.  You can control for maternal education (which explains most of the difference in test scores), socio-economic status, type of school, weeks gestation, health in pregnancy – you name it.  But these breastfed babies were only breastfed at four weeks (if the mother switched to formula at 4 weeks and 1 day, this isn’t taken into account).  How can nutrition in the first four weeks have an identifiable effect on test scores?  There’s a theory (naturally) involving long-chain fatty-acids, but it’s far from a certainty.  There could easily be some other unmeasured difference between the mothers or their babies.

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