(NaturalNews) Breastfeeding improves brain development in newborns. New research published in NeuroImage reported that babies fed with breast milk showed more white matter growth in their brains. These are the areas of the brain that deal with emotions, motor ability and learning language. Those mothers not able to produce their own breast milk or premature babies can benefit from breast donor milk programs that are now being implemented in some areas. (See www.nationalmilkbank.org, follow links below for information.)
The babies tested performed better on tests of motor development and visual tracking. The increased brain development from breastfeeding leads to increased IQ as the child grows into adolescence. Previous brain imaging studies show the same results - increased areas of brain matter in children who are breastfed, including more brain white matter, sub-cortical gray brain matter as well as parietal lobe cortical thickness.
The research study on breastfed babies and brain development
The research was conducted at Brown University and published by lead author Sean C. L. Deoni. They performed quiet brain imaging scans on 114 children from the age of 10 months to four years old. They were all breastfed exclusively for at least three months. The control group was fed only formula, or a combination of formula and breast milk. Using quiet magnetic imaging scans (MRI) the scientists compared the white matter microstructures, called mcDESPOT measures of myelin water fraction.
The breastfed babies showed more development of brain matter in several brain regions, including the later maturing frontal region of the brain. All of these areas of the brain control behavior and cognition. Each of the infants in the study had uncomplicated births and no family history of psychiatric disorders.
The breastfed infants in the study showed improved developments in their brains by the age of two. The study concluded that the components of breast milk promote "healthy neural growth and white matter development." The research showed that the more breast milk the babies had, the more their brain matter increased.
Texas Children's Hospital, where over 3,000 low weight babies are treated every year, has set up its own breast donor program. The milk is pasteurized in California, then fortified and returned to the Houston hospital. In spite of the pasteurization, 70 percent of the milk's immune factors still remain intact and available for the newborns and preemies.