The dream of every parent is to see his or her child grow to become healthy, strong, and also intelligent. Parents do not only observe the physical growth alone, but also the development of their intelligence, particularly during the golden period of 0 to 2 years old. Two things required in the growth and development process are adequate nutrition and appropriate stimulation. Therefore, parents should ensure that they provide both in a balanced manner to support the growth and development process of the child.
The best food for the child is breast milk, which contains all the nutrition they require. Breast milk is made up of water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, while blood cells, enzymes, and amino acids. Due to its complete nutritional contents, the WHO recommends the provision of exclusive breastfeeding to the child for the first six months of life. After this period, the child can be introduced to complementary food, while still continuing breast milk intake up to the age of two years old.
There are also various benefits of providing breast milk to the child, including having a stronger immune system, ideal body weight, reduced risk of obesity, tighter emotional bond between the mother and the child, as well as increased intelligence.
Various studies report that children receiving exclusive breastfeeding show higher IQ scores compared to those who do not receive breast milk. Aside from cognitive intelligence, the language skills and mental intelligence of children who received breast milk were also found to be higher than those who did not.
A study conducted by Brown University in the United States found that the development of white matter in the brain of babies receiving exclusive breastfeeding was better compared to that in babies not receiving exclusive breastfeeding. The white matter in the brain plays an important role in cognitive, language, and visual intelligence, as well as motor skills and behavior. This was found after conducting brain MRI examinations on 133 children aged 10 months to 4 years old.
Although not completely understood, experts who conducted the study concluded that this is possible because breast milk is rich in fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid).
Researchers from Oxford University in the United Kingdom also stated in 2011 that the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding during the first four weeks of life can still be seen up to the age of 14 years or during middle school. In this study, experts conducted score comparisons in reading, writing, and mathematics between children who received breastfeeding and those who did not. The age groups tested were 5, 7, 11, and 14 years old.
In addition to the aforementioned studies, there are various other studies that prove the benefits and importance of breast milk in terms of brain development and intelligence of the child. With so many benefits, parents should not hesitate to provide breast milk to the child.
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