Breastfeeding has been associated with improved neurodevelopment in children. However, it remains unknown to what extent nutritional advantages of breast milk may explain this relationship.


We assessed the role of parental psychosocial factors and colostrum long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) levels in the relationship between breastfeeding and children's neurodevelopment.


A population-based birth cohort was established in the city of Sabadell (Catalonia, Spain) as part of the INMA-INfancia y Medio Ambiente Project. A total of 657 women were recruited during the first trimester of pregnancy. Information about parental characteristics and breastfeeding was obtained by using a questionnaire, and trained psychologists assessed mental and psychomotor development by using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development in 504 children at 14 months of age.


A high percentage of breastfeeds among all milk feeds accumulated during the first 14 months was positively related with child mental development (0.37 points per month of full breastfeeding [95% confidence interval: 0.06–0.67]). Maternal education, social class, and intelligence quotient only partly explained this association. Children with a longer duration of breastfeeding also exposed to higher ratios between n-3 and n-6 PUFAs in colostrum had significantly higher mental scores than children with low breastfeeding duration exposed to low levels.


Greater levels of accumulated breastfeeding during the first year of life were related to higher mental development at 14 months, largely independently from a wide range of parental psychosocial factors. LC-PUFA levels seem to play a beneficial role in children's mental development when breastfeeding levels are high.

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