New research has added more evidence that breastfeeding boosts babies' brain growth.
The study by researchers from Brown University, made use of specialized, baby-friendly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain growth in a sample of children under the age of 4.
The research found that by age 2, babies who had been breastfed exclusively for at least three months had enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to children who were fed formula exclusively or who were fed a combination of formula and breastmilk.
The extra growth was most pronounced in parts of the brain associated with language, emotional function, and cognition, the research showed.
This isn't the first study to suggest that breastfeeding aids babies' brain development.
Behavioral studies have previously associated breastfeeding with better cognitive outcomes in older adolescents and adults.
But this is the first imaging study that looked for differences associated with breastfeeding in the brains of very young and healthy children, Sean Deoni, assistant professor of engineering at Brown and the study's lead author said.
The findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.