Breastfeeding Effects on Brain Development

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We’ve all heard that breast is best. By now, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control has managed to convince most of us that the milk out bodies produce for our babies gives them the best nutrition. Most of us also know moms’ health benefits from breastfeeding. Did you know, though, that your baby’s intelligence could be positively affected by your choice to breastfeed?

Medical studies have shown that there are two acids in your breast milk, called DHA and ARA, which have a direct impact on your baby’s cognitive development. The lactose in your breast milk is also known to help with your baby’s brain development. Together, these substances also affect:

  • Motor responses
  • Eyesight
  • Central nervous system development
  • Development of nerve cells

Well Researched

Studies have shown that breastfeeding is linked to higher IQ scores in children at seven to eight years of age. The results were even more pronounced for children who were born prematurely. One study showed that full term babies who had been breastfed for at least eight months had average IQ scores 6.2 points higher than babies who were not breastfed. Premature babies who had been breastfed for eight months or more averaged 8.3 points higher than babies who were formula fed.

Many studies have been conducted on the relationship between breastfeeding and brain development. The numbers differ slightly from one study to the next, but they all agree on one thing: breastfeeding your baby is optimal for her cognitive growth and brain development.

This doesn’t mean that your baby will automatically graduate Magna Cum Laude if you breastfeed her. There are many other factors which go into your baby’s intellectual development, not the least of which is your involvement in her education as she grows up. Breastfeeding does mean, however, that you are giving your developing baby the right nutrients her body and brain need to properly develop to her full potential.

Staying the Course

Many women become frustrated when trying to breastfeed. It can be hard not to give up. If you consider the many benefits of breastfeeding your baby, not the least of which is the improved brain development, it makes it easier to stay the course. Support groups like La Leche League also offer help to mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. If nothing else, when you feel yourself getting discouraged, remember that those few extra points just might add up to an extra point or two on her SATs eighteen years from now.

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This entry was posted in Breastfeeding.


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