Guest Post by Shannon.
Breastfeeding has long been known to give unparalleled health benefits to both mother and child.
Breastfed infants get sick less frequently and have fewer allergies. Mothers who breastfeed lose their pregnancy weight faster and reduces the risks of several types of cancer as well as lowering the risk of osteoporosis. Studies in recent years are showing indications that breastfeeding can also improve cognitive abilities and intelligence levels well beyond infancy.
For many years, research was done only on children from ages one year to five years. After breastfeeding for at least nine months, toddlers and pre-schoolers consistently performed better in various tests that involve intelligence. Of course, other benefits were duly noted such as the better health in general of those that were breastfed, but those benefits were well known. The effect on
intelligence levels was a surprise to most in the medical community.
There are several theories as to why breastfeeding appears to increase intelligence. Most researchers believe that it is a combination of several or even all of these theories. Here are the five main theories proposed by researchers:
1. Breastfeeding in itself may promote better development of the brain simply because of the closeness of the bond with mother. The theory proposes that because of this close bond, breastfed babies grow into children with more self-confidence and higher levels of self-esteem, which generally encourage active learning and a healthy desire for exploration and pushing the boundaries.
2. Breastmilk contains large amounts of lactose, far more than cow’s milk. Lactose breaks down in the body into both glucose and galactose. Galactose is a micro-nutrient that is necessary for proper brain tissue development. Animal studies have shown that the higher the intelligence of the mammal, the more lactose can be found in their milk.
3. Cholesterol is found in breastmilk. While an elevated level of cholesterol is unhealthy, particularly in adults, cholesterol is a needed substance in making nerve cells in the developing brain. These nerve cells are how the brain communicates from one part to another.
4. Taurine is another substance found in breastmilk in larger amounts than in cow’s milk. Taurine is an amino acid which is vital to healthy brain development.
5. Breastmilk contains an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. Recent studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are of extreme importance in developing healthy brain tissue and function. Levels and benefits are greatest from mothers who consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like certain cold water fish, but even without a good diet, there is still DHA passed through the breastmilk to the infant.
While the effect of breastfeeding for infants and toddlers has been long known, until the past twenty years, the medical community was unaware of the longterm benefits for intelligence. A study in Great Britain followed children born in 1991 and 1992 and found higher intelligence levels on average for breastfed children over those who were not breastfed and those differences remained noticeable at age 14. Another study in New Zealand found measurable differences at 18, with the most intelligent subjects being the ones who were breastfed the longest.
About The Author
Shannon is a mom of two and a member of
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