New Research on Baby Brains Sheds Light on Breastfeeding Benefits

August 8, 2013
New Research on Baby Brains Sheds Light on Breastfeeding Benefits

Breastfeeding your baby is one of the greatest gifts you can give your little one. This touching experience benefits infant growth and development in countless ways.

A recent study from Brown University suggests children who are breastfed exclusively for at least three months after birth have greater development in key parts of the brain compared to children who were fed formula or a combination of formula and breastmilk.

The study found that breastfeeding provides infants with added brain growth in areas associated with language, cognition and emotional function. This increased development becomes even more substantial by age 2. Lead author Sean Deoni said in a press release, “I think it’s astounding that you could have that much difference so early.”

Researchers at Brown’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab studied the brain activity of 133 babies between 10 months and 4 years using MRI imaging. The study charted the development of myelin—a fatty material essential to the nervous system—in the brain’s white matter. The researchers compared the older children to the younger babies to chart growth paths in brain development.

The team then backed up their data with a set of basic cognitive tests on the older children and discovered that kids who had been breastfed have increased language performance, visual reception and motor control performance compared to those who haven’t breastfed. The team at Brown also compared babies who were breastfed for more than a year with those breastfed less than a year and found significantly enhanced brain growth in the babies who were breastfed longer.

Additionally, signs of increased IQ levels and cognitive functioning in later childhood and adolescence are evident in the children who were breastfed. The benefits of breastfeeding last well into the precious lives of little ones, reinforcing the importance of providing babies with the best form of nutrition possible – breastmilk.

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