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Breastfeeding Leads to Healthy Brain Function

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7. Breastfeeding Leads to Healthy Brain Function

Breastfeeding and The Brain

New research, which followed 180 pre-term babies from birth to age 7, determined that infants who have been fed more breast milk in the first 28 days of life had higher volumes of distinctive regions of the brain which are developed similar to term and had higher IQs, academic success, working memory, and healthy motor function.

The findings have been released online in the Journal of Pediatrics.

According to Mandy Brown Belfort, MD, a researcher and physician in the Department of Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and lead author of the study, “Our data support current recommendations for using mother’s milk to feed preterm babies during their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization. This is not only important for moms, but also for hospitals, employers, and friends and family members, so that they can provide the support that’s needed during this time when mothers are under stress and working so hard to produce milk for their babies.

Breast Milk and Babies


Researchers studied infants born before 30 weeks of gestation who were enrolled within the Victorian Infant Brain Studies cohort from 2001-2003. They determined the quantity of days that babies received breast milk as more than 50 percentage of their nutritional consumption from birth to 28 days of life. Additionally, researchers examined data involving regional brain volumes measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at each baby’s term period equivalent age and at seven years old, and also checked out cognitive (IQ, reading, arithmetic, awareness, working memory, language, visual perception) and motor testing at age seven.

The findings show that, across all babies, toddlers who received predominantly breast milk on more days during their NICU hospitalization had better deep nuclear grey matter volume, a subject important for processing and transmitting neural indicators to different parts of the brain, at identical age, and by age seven, performed better in IQ, arithmetic, working memory, and motor assessments. In summary, ingesting more human milk correlated with better outcomes, together with greater regional brain volumes at a time period similar and elevated cognitive outcomes at age 7.

According to Belfort, Many mothers of preterm babies have difficulty providing breast milk for their babies, and we need to work hard to ensure that these mothers have the best possible support systems in place to maximize their ability to meet their own feeding goals. It’s also important to note that there are so many factors that influence a baby’s development, with breast milk being just one

Researchers noted that there are some limitations of the study, including that it was observational. Despite the fact that they adjusted for explanations akin to variations in maternal education, one of the crucial effects could be explained with different factors that were not measured, such as higher maternal involvement in different aspects of baby care.

Belfort also noted that future reviews utilizing other MRI methods might furnish more information about the special approaches by which human milk intake may influence the constitution and function of the brain. Future work can also be done to untangle the function of breastfeeding from other forms of maternal care and nurturing on development of the preterm infant's brain.

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Reference: Science Daily

Written By: Dr. Marie Gabrielle Laguna Bedia