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Breastfeeding & Brain Development

NEW YORK (CBS) -- New mothers may have another reason to breastfeed. A study in the journal Pediatrics finds a connection between breastfed babies and higher mental development.

Chrissy Allen, who is currently breastfeeding her fourth child, said she thinks it's the healthiest for babies.

"It's the most natural, easiest for them to digest," said Allen.

Research shows breastfeeding protects babies against infection, asthma and obesity but there may be another benefit. A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds babies who are breastfed show higher mental development at 14 months.

"We look at their motor skills. We look at their language skills," explained pediatrician Dr. Jessica Sessions.

A link between breastfeeding and brain development isn't new but factors such as the mother's education and income were thought to play a role. This study shows the benefits are independent of those social factors.

"It's the composition of the breast milk. Even though we're not sure exactly, they're looking at certain types of fatty acids that they think are making a positive impact on the baby's brain," said Dr. Sessions.

The study also found the greater the amount of breast milk, the higher the benefits.

For Chrissy Allen, studies like this one reinforce her decision to breastfeed.

"It was difficult to do at the beginning and difficult to stick through with this many children but it makes me happy and proud of myself as a mother knowing I really am doing what is best for her."

She also said the greatest benefit of all is bonding with her new baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies receive only breast milk for the first six months of life. While about 75-percent start out being breastfed, less than 15-percent are exclusively breastfed at six months.


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