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
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.
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.
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.