Exclusive Breastfeeding Leads to Better Language, Cognitive and Emotional Development in Brain Earlier & More Than Thought

The research found 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 children who were fed formula exclusively or who were fed a combination of formula and breastmilk. The extra growth was most pronounced in parts of the brain associated with language, emotional function, and cognition, the research showed….

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 (Dr. Greg Note:  myelin is the insulation around the nerve cell.  Well-myelinated nerves deliver messages 3000 times faster than poorly myelinated nerves)  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.

“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.”

“We wanted to see how early these changes in brain development actually occur,” Deoni said. “We show that they’re there almost right off the bat.”

About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

  • Barbara Fryman

    While I was unable to nurse our typical babies for an entire year, I was bent on doing it for our daughter with Down syndrome, who I was told wouldn’t be able to nurse. We did have to supplement w pumped milk because her low muscle tone made it hard for her to get enough. I can’t say this is why she’s doing so well, but I do think its a big factor. I would have continued to nurse, but I wasn’t able. What I have been able to do is research the nutrients in breast milk that are vital to neurological development and try to craft a diet plan for our little one. So far, so good. I guess I write this comment for the mamas who can’t nurse, but acknowledge it is best for baby. There are better options than your run-of-the-mill baby brands offer.

  • Lindsay H

    Do you have a link to the actual study? This is awesome and I’d love to read it!
    Barbara-I’m nursing our baby with DS too!