There is strong and convincing evidence that infant’s sensory stimulation, which is associated with breastfeeding, contributes significantly to the infant’s neurodevelopment. Our study compared the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children who were breastfed, given breast milk through a bottle (breast-milk fed), or formula-fed. We reported significant association of ASD in children who were formula-fed from birth or weaned early from the breast. The statistical data revealed that increasing the duration of breastfeeding resulted in a decrease in prevalence of ASD. The odds ratio of a child not having autism was 0.27, 0.93, and 6.67 for breastfeeding for less than 6, 6–12, or longer than 12 months, respectively. There is significant evidence that this association is mediated by the ingredients of the breast milk and infant’s endogenous oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator and we postulate that oxytocin may increase neuroplasticity, synaptic connections, and alter ASD genes’ expression. Animal experiments and imaging studies demonstrate the central role of oxytocin in maternal love and bonding. Currently, there are no specific treatments for patients diagnosed with autism; therefore, it is imperative to identify the risk factors that contribute to the development of ASD. In this communication, we demonstrate that lack of breastfeeding is highly associated with ASD development in children with genetic susceptibility.
Part of the book: Autism
There is substantial evidence that breastfeeding and an enriched environment provide significant contributions to the infant’s brain development. In the past 2 decades, there have been overwhelming data on the benefits of breastfeeding for 1 year and longer and its association with higher intelligence in later life. There is clear and convincing evidence from a number of disciplines, neuroscience, genetics, animal experiments and magnetic imaging techniques that indicate breastfeeding results in optimal brain development and higher IQ in later life. Magnetic imaging studies of infants, children and adolescents have provided significant evidence that the higher IQ in later life in breastfed infants is associated with larger brain size and higher degree of myelination of the white matter. Furthermore, observational studies of infants have provided clear evidence that breastfeeding and mother-baby sensory interaction result in significant cognitive and behavioral development of breastfed as compared to formula fed infants. Large-scale longitudinal studies of infants’ development have shown clear and convincing evidence of higher intelligence in children who were breastfed during infancy, and that the higher IQ persists through adulthood. In this communication, we provide evidence that breastfeeding and an enriched environment result in accelerated developmental potentials in the first 1000 days last a life time. The first 1000 days last the rest of our lives.
Part of the book: Selected Topics in Breastfeeding