The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant#$#apos;s life, with continuation of breastfeeding for at least a year or as mutually desired by mother and child. A robust body of research literature documenting the short-term medical, developmental, and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for infants and toddlers supports this position. This article reviews the neurodevelopmental benefits of breastfeeding as it relates to preschool and school-age children, with particular emphasis on cognitive development, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.
The majority of research studies examining breastfeeding and long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes suggest that children who breastfeed for longer than 6 months have better cognitive outcomes, lower risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and lower risk of being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Pediatricians play a critical role in educating and counseling families about infant nutrition and feeding. Along with the many positive short-term medical effects that breastfeeding confers, physicians should be aware of the growing body of research suggesting that there are also significant long-term neurodevelopmental benefits of breastfeeding.
Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children#$#apos;s Medical Center of New York, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, New York, USA
Correspondence to Andrew Adesman, MD, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 1983 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130, Lake Success, NY 11042, USA. Tel: +1 516 802 6100; e-mail:AAdesman@northwell.edu