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Breastfeeding and Sensory Development

Breastfeeding offers plenty of developmental and health advantages for your baby, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. While breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing medical issues, such as ear infections or allergies, it can also positively affect how your baby experiences the world through the senses: sight, hearing, smell and taste.

Brain and Beyond

The sensory benefits of breastfeeding may stem from the positive influence that nursing has on a baby's mental development. The AAP notes that brain-based development is higher in breastfed babies than those who only have formula. The brain is a necessary part of sensory processing and integration; however, the AAP notes that other influences -- such as the home environment or a parent's educational level -- may outweigh nursing when it comes to affecting mental development.

In Your Eyes

A breastfed baby is likely to have a higher degree of visual acuity than those who aren't nursing exclusively, according to early intervention specialist Diane Colburn in her article "Breastfeeding and Development (An Overview)" on the Every Baby Deserves a Healthy Start website. A newborn baby can't see far from his own face, having an initial range of sight that falls between 8 and 10 inches. This is about the same distance a breastfeeding position provides your little one -- just the right positioning to help build his sight skills. By holding him just far enough away that he can still see you, your baby can look at your face and develop his sense of sight as he nurses.

RELATED: Checklist for Breastfeeding Basics

Hearing Helper

Your baby's hearing is almost fully developed at birth. Even though she can hear well, breastfeeding time provides the chance to talk to your baby. Talking to your baby helps her to learn about speech and communication before she can talk, according to the AAP's HealthyChildren.org website. Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of your baby developing ear infections. Cutting down -- or eliminating -- ear infections may mean that your baby's sense of hearing can develop without added obstacles.

Taste Time

Newborns can taste most of the same flavors that adults can, with the exception of salt. Your baby is learning to recognize you by using his senses of smell and taste. It's likely that he knows your distinct smell and the scent and taste of your breast milk, says Parenting Science. Making the distinction between your breast milk and other smells can help your baby develop his sensory skills.

RELATED: Breast-Feeding & Speech Development: What You Need to Know

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