The role of mother nutrition in increasing infant’s intelligence

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Breast milk is the original superfood – a complex substance containing the perfect nutritional mixture for infant growth and development. Unique composition of breast milk imparts many specific health benefits to a baby.

Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness. That’s one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.

Here's a look at some of the most important benefits breastfeeding offers you and your baby.

  • Breastfeeding protects your baby from a long list of illnesses
  • Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies
  • Breastfeeding may boost your child’s intelligence
  • Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity
  • Breastfeeding may lower your baby’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The researchers concluded that exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age cut the risk of SIDS in half.
  • Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression
  • Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer

Various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development. In a study of more than 17,000 infants followed from birth to 6 1/2 years, researchers concluded from IQ scores and other intelligence tests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding significantly improves cognitive development.

Another study of almost 4,000 children showed that babies who were breastfed had significantly higher scores on a vocabulary test at 5 years of age than children who were not breastfed. And the scores were higher the longer they had been nursed.

Preterm infants with extremely low birth weight who received breast milk shortly after birth improved their mental development scores at 18 months when compared with preterm infants who weren’t given breast milk. In a later study, researchers found that the higher scores held at 30 months, and that the babies who received breast milk were also less likely to be hospitalized again because of respiratory infections.

Experts say that the emotional bonding that takes place during breastfeeding probably contributes to some of the brainpower benefits, but that the fatty acids in breast milk may play the biggest role.

  • Research has found that breastfed babies perform better on different kinds of intelligence tests as they grow older.
  • Children who had consumed mother’s milk by tube in early weeks of life had a significantly higher IQ at 7.5 to 8 yr. than those who received no maternal milk, even after adjustment for differences between groups and mothers’ educational and social class.
  • Mother’s milk contains the fatty acids essential to the development of the baby’s nervous system and vision. This may be one of the reasons why breastfed babies’ IQ are 8 to 10 points higher than that of formula-fed babies.
  • Breastfed children scored score higher on cognitive and IQ tests at school age, and also on tests of visual acuity.
  • Higher IQ in breastfed children. Cholesterol and other types of fat in breast milk support the growth of nerve tissue.
  • Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression
  • Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer

Enhances Development and Intelligence

  • Enhanced neurological development that may result in higher IQs
  • Human survival depends more on brain power than on strong muscles, rapid growth (rapid maturity), or body size, so your milk is rich in the nutrients that best promote brain growth and nervous system development.
  • Breast milk is high in fat. fatty acids for brain development. Some recent NICHD-supported research also suggests that breast milk contains important and essential fatty acids, a key source of energy and building blocks that help an infant’s brain develop. Two specific fatty acids, known as DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (Arachidonic acid), may help increase infants’ cognitive skills.
  • Breastfed infants develop higher IQ’s, and have improved brain and nervous system development; IQ advantage of 10-12 points studied at ages 8, 12, and 18. (Breastfeeding is considered the 4th trimester in brain growth and development…there are specific proteins in breast milk that promote brain development))

Higher intelligence

Studies examining whether breastfeeding in infants is associated with higher intelligence later in life include:

  • Horwood, Darlow and Mogridge (2001) tested the intelligence quotient (IQ) scores of 280 low birthweight children at seven or eight years of age. Those who were breastfed for more than eight months had verbal IQ scores 6 points higher (which was significantly higher) than comparable children breastfed for less time. They concluded “These findings add to a growing body of evidence to suggest that breast milk feeding may have small long-term benefits for child cognitive development.”
  • A 2005 study using data on 2,734 sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health “provide[d] persuasive evidence of a causal connection between breastfeeding and intelligence.”
  • In 2006, Der and colleagues, having performed a prospective cohort study, sibling pairs analysis, and meta-analysis, concluded that “Breast feeding has little or no effect on intelligence in children.” The researchers found that “Most of the observed association between breast feeding and cognitive development is the result of confounding by maternal intelligence.”
  • The 2007 review for the AHRQ found “no relationship between breastfeeding in term infants and cognitive performance.”
  • The 2007 review for the WHO concluded “Subjects who were breastfed experienced… higher performance in intelligence tests.”
  • Maximizes a Child’s Physical and Intellectual Potential. Malnutrition among infants up to six months of age can be virtually eradicated by the practice of exclusive breastfeeding. For young children beyond six months, breast milk serves as the nutritional foundation to promote continued healthful growth. Premature infants fed breast milk show higher developmental scores as toddlers and higher IQs as children than those not fed breast milk.

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