Breast-feeding and brain development

  • Kim Fleischer Michaelsen
  • Lotte Lauritzen
  • Marianne Hørby Jørgensen
  • Erik Lykke Mortensen


The effect of breast-feeding on brain development, especially cognitive and visual, has been examined in many studies. The aim of this article is to summarize this group’s studies and relate them to results from reviews and meta-analyses. In two separate studies of visual development in term infants, visual acuity was better in breast-fed than in formula-fed infants, which is in accordance with the results from a meta-analysis. Among studies examining the association between breast-feeding and cognitive development most find a positive association, even when controlling for relevant confounding factors. A positive effect was found in two different samples of young adults using two different intelligence quotient tests. The most plausible explanation for this effect is the differences in composition between human milk and infant formula (e.g. docosahexaenoic acid). It could also be because mothers who choose to breast-feed on average stimulate and support their i nfants better. Further, unidentified factors may also correlate with both infant feeding and development of cognitive and intellectual ability, so-called residual confounding. Keywords: breast-feeding; cognitive ability; docosahexaenoic acid; infant feeding; intelligence quotient (IQ); LCPUFA; mental development; visual acuity; visual evoked potentials


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How to Cite
Fleischer Michaelsen, K., Lauritzen, L., Hørby Jørgensen, M., & Lykke Mortensen, E. (2003). Breast-feeding and brain development. Food & Nutrition Research, 147-151.
Nutrition and the brain