Breastfeeding and Brain Development


Guest Post by Tracey Montford

A baby’s brain develops very fast during the first 4 years of his/her life.  From the age of 5, it begins to slow down but will still develop at a high rate, which is much quicker than that of an adult.  

It is important that a child is stimulated and encouraged to learn and explore his surroundings to help ensure good brain development at a young age.

Breastfeeding and Brain development

What impact does breast milk have on a baby’s brain?

Nutrients found in the breast milk help to stimulate a baby’s brain development early on.

Two key nutrients found in breast milk are Omega 3 and Lactose.

Omega 3

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), commonly known, as an Omega 3 fatty acid is a key ingredient found in breast milk.  

The human brain is highly concentrated with Omega 3.  Therefore DHA is imperative for the growth and the development of the human brain.   DHA helps with memory, performance and behavioral functions.


Lactose is another key ingredient found in breast milk. Lactose is the main sugar found in breast milk and can be broken down into two main sugars- glucose and galactose.

Galactose is another important nutrient, ideal for brain development.  

A mother’s breast milk contains the highest level of Lactose compared with other any other mammals, cows milk, formula and soya milk products.

Do breastfeed babies have a higher IQ?

A study followed 7,478 Irish children born full term and documented their progress from the age of 9 months to 5 years old.


At age 3 their parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire based on their observations of their child’s development.  The children who were breastfed for no less than 6 months showed improved problem-solving skills and were less hyperactive than those who were not breastfed.

By the age of 5, the differences observed weren’t as significant.

In conclusion, the study found that baby’s who received breast milk definitely have an early advantage compared to bottle feed babies.  A child’s actual IQ later on in life is not necessarily contributed to breast milk but other factors such as their parents IQ, education, their environment and experiences in life.

Other factors we need to consider

When we look at a baby’s IQ we also need to look at his surroundings and influencers in his life.

His parent’s socioeconomic status can have huge implications on a child’s IQ.

Women from lower socioeconomic status are less likely to breastfeed, are less likely to be well educated and have less disposable income for extracurricular activities.  

Women from a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to breastfeed.   They are generally well educated themselves and are in better-paying jobs.  Because of this they are able to provide more for their children by way of education and tend to engage more in extracurricular activities outside of school.  

Greater stimulation and learning experiences help to develop the brain.

Cognitive benefits of breastfeeding


There is no denying it. Choosing to breastfeed your child helps to give them the best start in life.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Breast milk not only provides your child with much-needed nutrients but also helps to protect them from contracting ear infections, gastro infections, asthma or allergies, respiratory illnesses and helps to decrease their risk of SIDS.

The older your child gets the cognitive benefits of breastfeeding decreases.

Ways we can help baby’s brain develop

As early as 1 week old your baby is looking around, observing and being stimulated by his surroundings.

The surroundings and interaction he has with it will help in his brain develop.


Take the time to spend quality time with your child every day.

  • Interact and show him that you love him.  He will feel calm and secure.
  • Play with him.  It is through play that he learns.
  • Attend to him when he cries.  He will be less stressed and a calmer baby.
  • Breastfeed for no less than 3 months and longer if possible.
  • Provide a secure loving home, where he can feel at peace
  • Make eye contact with your baby.  He will learn language through interaction.
  • Make sounds/sing and laugh
  • Stroke him to help stimulate his sense of touch
  • Encourage movement/belly time/lifting head
  • Ensure he gets plenty of rest
  • A healthy well-balanced diet, full of fresh fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates
  • Read to him
  • Introduce him to basic images, shapes, numbers, colors

About the Author
Like many women out there, Tracey Montford is an exceptional multi-tasker! Apart from steering a global business, managing 2 young boys & keeping the clan clean and fed, Tracey still finds time to provide creative inspiration and direction to the exceptional designs of Cake Maternity. From the branding, presentation, and delivery, creativity is a big part of what Tracey does so naturally and effectively. Find out more at or catch up with her on social @cakematernity.






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