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Breastfeeding Is Best Feeding

By Pathways Magazine

Breastfeeding significantly increases short-term attentiveness in 4- to 6- month olds, according to an article in the journal Developmental Psychobiology. Investigators outfitted 13 infants with limb movement detectors. The youngsters were watched for a 4-minute period while a mechanical mobile was switched on and off at 1-minute intervals. The babies were studied on two different days. On one day they were observed following breastfeeding, while on another day they were tested before they were breastfed.

Investigators noted that, while the breastfeeding did not influence limb activity, it did appear to heighten attentiveness. Specifically, the infants looked at the mobile significantly longer after they breastfed. The study’s authors concluded that breastfeeding has a significant impact on infants’ attentiveness and interaction with their environment.

Gerrish CJ, Mennella JA. Short-term influence of breastfeeding on the infants’ interaction with the environment Dev Psychobiol 2000 (Jan); 36 (1): 40-48

Breast-fed babies’ IQ is higher than that of formula-fed babies, according to a meta-analysis of 20 articles.

After adjusting for factors that may influence intellect, including the mother’s age and intelligence, birth order, race, birth weight, gestational age and socioeconomic status, the study found that breastfeeding may raise a child’s IQ by more than five. The enhanced cognitive development was evident as early as six months and was sustained through age 15. A dose-response relationship was demonstrated between duration of breastfeeding and cognitive benefit.

What accounts for breast milk’s brain boosting power? According to experts, nutrients present in breast milk may have a significant effect on neurologic development in premature and term infants.

Anderson JW, Johnstone BM, Remley DT. Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis Am J Clin Nutr 1999 (Oct); 70 (4): 525-535

Doctors of chiropractic have traditionally been strong proponents of breastfeeding. Now, just published research shows that doctors should not only encourage mothers to breastfeed, but should also instruct them to stay at it for at least six months. According to an article in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, babies who are breast-fed for at least six months grow to be more intelligent than their peers who are breast-fed for less time.

The analysis tracked 345 Scandinavian youngsters. The 17% of subjects who were breastfed for less than three months were more likely to score below average for mental skills at 13 months and total intelligence at 5 years, compared with subjects who were breastfed for at least six months. This correlation remained after investigators controlled for various risk factors of cognitive impairment, such as maternal age, socioeconomic status, education and history of smoking. Duration of breastfeeding did not appear to influence motor skills.

Angelsen NK, Vik T, Jacobsen G, Bakketeig LS. Breast feeding and cognitive development at age 1 and 5 years Arch Dis Child 2001 (Sep); 85 (3): 183-188

Infant formula supplemented with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) does not improve the neurodevelopmental outcomes of preterm infants, according to a report in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Breast milk contains long-chain PUFA, which is found in high concentrations in cell membranes, particularly those of the central nervous system, and is thought to play an important role in brain development. Because standard infant formula does not contain long-chain PUFA, researchers have reasoned that formula supplemented with this fatty acid would benefit preterm infants whose brains have not fully matured. But studies to date have yielded conflicting results.

Furthermore, a group of 88 control infants who were breastfed scored higher on developmental tests than either group of formula-fed infants.