Long-term neurodevelopmental benefits of breastfeeding

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Purpose of reviewThe 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.Recent findingsThe 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.SummaryPediatricians 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.

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