It’s World Breatfeeding Week and what better way to celebrate than to talk about the impact breastfeeding has on a baby’s brain. It’s not a new concept that breastfeeding helps with brain development. Studies have shown before that cognitive function in adolescents and adults is better if they were breastfed, but now a new study shows for the first time that there is a difference in the brains of very young children, specifically under the age of 4.
The study used quiet MRI machines to look at sleeping babies’ brains and the results were astonishing. The breastfed babies’ brains had 20-30% more white matter than their formula-fed counterparts. White matter is brain tissue that contains long nerve fibers and aids in communication between different parts of the brain.
“Deoni and his team looked at 133 babies ranging in ages from 10 months to four years. All of the babies had normal gestation times, and all came from families with similar socioeconomic statuses. The researchers split the babies into three groups: those whose mothers reported they exclusively breastfed for at least three months, those fed a combination of breastmilk and formula, and those fed formula alone. The researchers compared the older kids to the younger kids to establish growth trajectories in white matter for each group.
The study showed that the exclusively breastfed group had the fastest growth in myelinated white matter of the three groups, with the increase in white matter volume becoming substantial by age 2. The group fed both breastmilk and formula had more growth than the exclusively formula-fed group, but less than the breastmilk-only group.” (source)
The subjects were also given basic cognitive tests and the breastfed group scored higher in language performance, visual reception, and motor control performance. The study also concluded that the longer a child breastfeeds the better. Extended breastfeeding, or breastfeeding past 1 year, had an impact on motor function.
Cheers to that liquid gold, ladies! It does our babies good!