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Your Body: Breastfeeding and brain development

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Is breastfeeding really better than not breastfeeding when it comes to brain development?

Researchers in Ireland looked at 8,000 babies, checking in on them at 9 months, 3 years and 5 years, and comparing those who were breastfed and those were not. They found that in terms of cognitive development, at 3 years there was a slight improvement among those who were breastfed. But at 5 years, there was no difference in terms of vocabulary, hyperactivity and overall reasoning ability.

We know that breastfeeding has multiple benefits for babies, such as decreasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), obesity and certain infant infections. And for mothers, breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

But the reality of breastfeeding is that it’s not always possible for every mom, so as a doctor and a mother, I feel the keyword in breastfeeding is feeding -- and every mom should feed their baby the best way they can.

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