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The long-term breastfeeding improves the neurodevelopment of children

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The long-term breastfeeding improves the neurodevelopment of children

The full breastfeeding between 6 until 12 months of children is related to better development of cognitive functions of children at 4 years of age. However, the difficulties in understanding what factors are involved in the benefit of breastfeeding. According to a study of the CREAL, centre of research of ISGlobal alliance, maternal indicators of intelligence, psychopathology, social class and colostrum n3 fatty acids did not explain this association.

The study, led by the researcher Jordi Júlvez, used data from the birth cohort in the city of Sabadell (Catalonia, Spain) of the INMA project. In conclusion, twenty-three per cent of mothers had a bachelor’s degree and were from medium-high social classes. The average maternal age at delivery was 32 years, and 13% of mothers smoked during pregnancy. Fifteen per cent of all mothers who breastfed their infants did not fully breastfeed. The median duration of full breastfeeding was 17 weeks. A length of time, according to Júlvez, "are not enough for being beneficial for neurological development of infants."

Long-term breastfeeding, particularly full breastfeeding, is one of the most studied factors of neurodevelopment in recent years, with several studies reporting beneficial effects on child neuropsychological development. The human brain is highly sensitive to environmental exposures occurring during particular periods of vulnerability. In early life, the brain’s developmental biological activity is so predominant that any factor enhancing or disturbing this process could result in permanent effects on cerebral function. A wide range of environmental determinants, including physical, biological, psychological, and social factors, modulate brain structure and function by interacting with genes and expression mechanisms (i.e. epigenetic determinants).

CREAL is part of the centres CERCA of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

Reference: Julvez J, Guxens M, Carsin AE, Forns J, Méndez MA, Turner MC, Sunyer J. A cohort study on full breastfeeding and child neuropsychological development: the role of maternal social, psychological, and nutritional factors. Dev Med Child Neurol 2013.


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