Breastfeeding babies develop better brains, study


It has long been known that substances contained in breast milk play an important role in the development of a growing baby’s nervous system. In a new study on this subject, researchers at the University of California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have found that the oligosaccharide 2′-fucosylactose (2′-FL), found in breast milk, promotes the development of an infant’s cognitive abilities.

The study authors analyzed the composition of breast milk as well as the frequency of breastfeeding at one and six months of age in 50 families. The concentration of oligosaccharides was determined in milk; the children’s degree of cognitive development was measured 24 months after birth using the standardized Bayley-III test.

“Through our high-performance analytical platform, we can quantify oligosaccharides such as 2’FL and many others in hundreds of breast milk samples in a short period of time,” says one of the authors of the work. “This technology allows us to link differences in milk composition with specific parameters in children.”

The study showed the amount of 2’-FL in breast milk in the first month of breastfeeding was associated with significantly higher rates of cognitive development in children aged two years. At the same time, the amount of oligosaccharide in milk six month after birth did not correlate with cognitive indicators: this suggests that the beneficial effect of 2’-FL manifest itself only in the early stages of life.

Also read: Infant Baby Nutrition: How to Feed Newborn

These observations allowed the team to conclude that the increase in neurodevelopment provided by breastfeeding was mainly due to mothers who were producing more 2’FL for the baby to consume.

“We know that there are many different compounds in breast milk and the composition is dynamic – it changes over time and is highly variable between mothers,” said Michael Goran, lead author of the study.

“In addition to identifying the impact of the 2’FL oligosaccharide, we also wanted to determine when it is most critical for a child’s development,” he adds.

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Also read: Infant Formula Feeding – Nutrients for Child Health