Tags: breastfeeding | boosts | babies | brain

Breastfeeding Boosts Babies' Brain Growth: MRI Study

By    |   Monday, 10 Jun 2013 12:16 PM

Here’s another ringing endorsement for breast milk's health benefits: A new study has found breastfeeding improves brain development in infants.
 
The study, by researchers from Brown University, used MRIs to track the brain development of breastfed infants under the age of 4 years and compared them to those fed formula, or a combination of breast milk and formula.
 
The results, published in the journal NeuroImage, showed that by age 2, babies who had been breastfed exclusively for at least three months had enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to those fed formula exclusively or a combination. The extra growth was most pronounced in parts of the brain associated with language, emotional function, and cognition, the research showed.
 
"We wanted to see how early these changes in brain development actually occur," said Sean Deoni, assistant professor of engineering at Brown and the study's lead author. "We show that they're there almost right off the bat."
 
Deoni and his team looked at 133 babies ranging in ages from 10 months to four years. All were healthy and came from families with similar socioeconomic statuses. The researchers split the babies into three groups: those whose mothers breastfed them for at least three months, those fed a combination of breast milk and formula, and those fed formula alone.
 
"We're finding the difference [in white matter growth] is on the order of 20 to 30 percent, comparing the breastfed and the non-breastfed kids," said Deoni. "I think it's astounding that you could have that much difference so early."
 
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Mental Health.

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