This might be a no-brainer as our Grand Mothers have been telling this for centuries.
The study of under-fours showed children who have breast milk as part of their diet have a clear advantage when it comes to brain development.
Research carried out at Brown University, in the U.S., found that by the time the babies had reached their second birthday a discernible difference could be seen in their brain structure.
Dr Sean Deoni, an engineering professor and lead author, said: ‘We’re finding the difference [in white matter growth] is in the order of 20 to 30 per cent, comparing the breastfed and the non-breastfed kids.’
Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans were taken of the babies who had been fed a diet of breast milk in the earliest stages of their development, and of those who had been fed formula milk.
The babies who were weaned on a diet of formula were found to have the least white matter.
Dr Deoni’s team carried out the study to see how early the changes in brain development took place.
‘We show that they’re there almost right off the bat,’ he said.
Researchers looked at the brains of 133 babies who were born on time and came from similar families.
By comparing the myelin in older and younger children they were able to calculate how breast milk influenced the development of white matter.
The researchers backed up the results of the scans with a set of basic cognitive tests that showed language performance, visual reception and motor control were all better in the breastfed children.
The team found that the longer the babies were fed with breast milk the more developed their brains were, especially in the areas of the brain associated with movement and coordination.
While the Brown study published in the journal NeuroImage is not the first to link breastfeeding with improved development in the young, Dr Deoni claimed it is the first time MRI scans have been used to compare the brains in breastfed and non-breastfed children.
Dr Deoni said: ‘I think it’s astounding that you could have that much difference so early. I think I would argue that combined with all the other evidence, it seems like breastfeeding is absolutely beneficial.’