Breast Milk Supports Preemies’ Developing Brains

Increases Premature Babies' Brain Sizes




A study from the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, Missouri, has found that premature babies that receive at least 50 percent of their diet from breast milk in their first month have significantly better brain development than babies that consume less breast milk.

The researchers tested 77 infants born an average of 14 weeks before their full nine-month term—referred to as preterm or preemie. The brain scans of the infants were compared with how much breast milk they received while in the natal intensive care unit. Mother’s breast milk was not distinguished from breast milk provided by others.

Senior researcher, physician and child psychiatry professor Cynthia Rogers explains, “With MRI scans, we found that babies fed more breast milk had larger brain volumes. This is important because several other studies have shown a correlation between brain volume and cognitive development.”

Preterm birth has been linked with neurological and psychiatric problems later in life, and the researchers plan to continue to study the children. “We want to see whether this difference in brain size has an effect on any of these developmental milestones,” says Rogers.

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