Breastfeeding linked to bigger brains

The length of time a baby breastfeeds has been linked to brain size and intelligence by a new study of mammals


The length of time babies breastfeed has been linked to the size of their brains. The longer the breastfeeding period the bigger the brain, according to a new study at Durham University.


“The study supports the theory that breastfeeding and brain development are associated with each other,” said Professor Robert Burton, the study author. His team investigated the effect of breastfeeding on the brains of 128 mammals, including humans. The study found a correlation between both the length of breastfeeding and how long the mammals were pregnant for and the size of the infants’ brains.

But the scientists do not yet know if it is something in the mum’s milk that increases the brain size. “What we don’t know at the moment is if there is anything in mum’s milk that helps the brain to grow,’ said Professor Robert. “It’s components have been a hot topic among scientists for some time. At the moment we cannot say for sure that formula milk is not an adequate replacement,” he added.

UK guidelines recommend mums breastfeed for at least six months while the World Health Organisation goes further, suggesting breastfeeding should continue for 18 months to two years.


The study comes just after a similar investigation discovered that children who were breastfed outperformed those who weren’t on a variety of tests.

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