Hooray for Boobs!

Monday, July 20, 2009 at Monday, July 20, 2009
Since the 1930’s it has been accepted that breast milk is better than formula. Recently there has been an increased focus on the cognitive development of breast fed versus formula fed infants. Now I must start off by saying that this post is not meant to insult any woman that uses formula. Breastfeeding is my personal choice, but for various reasons is not feasible for everyone. I would also like to mention a huge caveat with this type of research…you cannot possibly account for all of the influences that determine IQ and cognitive development. However, the paper I am presenting did a fabulous job of taking 20 studies of breast fed and formula fed infants, tested on a variety of cognitive tasks, over an extended period of time, and has developed a convincing argument for why breast milk is better than formula for cognitive development.

Here are the benefits presented for breast fed infants:
1) ~ 3 points higher on IQ tests compared to formula fed
2) better academic achievement
3) better job performance (later in age)
4) lower delinquency rates
5) better performance on visual acuity tests
6) may have earlier acquisition of motor skills
7) fewer emotional/behavioral problems
8) fewer minor neurological problems later in life

The greatest beneficiaries of breast milk appear to be low birth weight babies. Normal birth weight babies score ~3 points higher on IQ tests compared to formula fed babies. Low birth weight babies scored 5.16 points higher.

So why all of the improvements for boob fed babies? Well, the basic credence accepted in this research is that breast milk contains 2 very important characters: arachadonic acid, aka omega-6 (AA) and decosahexanoic acid, aka omega-3 (DHA). DHA and AA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs). “DHA is essential for retinal and nervous system development. AA is necessary for growth and ecosanoid synthesis (regulators of homeostasis and response to injury). Both LCPs are important constituents of neuronal membranes and blood vessels in the brain” (http://www.infactcanada.ca/fatty_acids_in_infant_developmen.htm)

So now that companies are now adding DHA/AA to formula (and pretty much everything else in baby food), it will be interesting to see if this offsets the benefit of boobs! The truth is, when it comes to most essential oils, fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, etc. the best place to get what you need is from the food itself. Vitamins will never give you the same benefit of a well balance, healthy meal. But now that they are adding DHA/AA to so many products, like milk, and to infant food products, maybe formula fed babies will reap the benefits?

Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis.Anderson JW, Johnstone BM, Remley DT. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Oct;70(4):525-35


  1. Hanna Says:

    I hope I can breast feed. I definitely have heard its better for a child's development.

  2. Brian Says:

    The title of that blog is so misleading.

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