Research on the links between breastfeeding and cognitive development
Human milk: From complex tailored nutrition to bioactive impact on child cognition and behaviour
This narrative review presents a complex picture of the current state of knowledge on the role of human milk and its components in the development of neurological processes and cognitive performance in infants. It offers practical and theoretical recommendations to advance research in this field, including innovative directions for future studies on cost implications and current support structures with the aim of inspiring social and political support for improvements in breastfeeding opportunities.
To what extent does confounding explain the association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive development up to age 14? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study
This study evaluates whether the association between breastfeeding duration and improved childhood cognitive development can be explained by socioeconomic position (SEP) and maternal cognitive ability. The study uses multivariable linear mixed-effects models to compare verbal and spatial cognitive scores at ages 5, 7, 11, and 14 with reported breastfeeding durations. At all ages, longer breastfeeding durations were associated with higher cognitive scores after accounting for the child’s own characteristics, however the effect was modest. Adjustment for SEP approximately halved the effect sizes.
Pereyra-Elias, R., Quigley, M., Carson, C. (2022). To what extent does confounding explain the association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive development up to age 14? Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0267326
Preterm nutrition and neurodevelopmental outcomes
Preterm infants are at increased risk of alterations in brain structure and connectivity and subsequent neurocognitive impairment. This study explores the extent to which breastmilk exposure is associated with improved markers of brain development and connectivity in preterm infants at term equivalent age. Findings from an analysis of data on 47 preterm infants’ neonatal breastmilk exposure and brain MRI suggests that breastmilk feeding in the weeks after preterm birth is associated with improved structural connectivity of developing networks and greater fractional anisotropy in major white matter fasciculi.
Blesa M, Sullivan G, Anblagan D, Telford EJ, Quigley AJ, Sparrow SA, Serag A, Semple SI, Bastin ME, Boardman JP. Early breast milk exposure modifies brain connectivity in preterm infants. Neuroimage. 2019 Jan 1;184:431-439. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.09.045. Epub 2018 Sep 18. PMID: 30240903.
- Impact of breastfeeding on intelligence, educational attainment and income at 30 years of age in Brazil
Victora et al (2015). Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. Lancet Glob Health, 3: e199–205
- Breastfeeding and intelligence
Horta, B. L. et al (2015). Breastfeeding and intelligence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 14-19.
- Impact of Baby Friendly accreditation on breastfeeding rates, cognitive outcomes and maternal mental health
- Breastfeeding and child development outcomes