The Breastfed Infant’s Neurobehavioral Organization: Implications for Child Health and Cognitive Development

  • Sybil L. Hart
  • Shera C. Jackson
  • L. Mallory Boylan


In this chapter we address whether and how breastfeeding contributes toward differences in the newborn infant’s neurobehavioral development. We then consider how differences of this nature might underlie or help account for some of known benefits of breastfeeding to infant health, and to possible advantages to intellectual development. The chapter reports that crying in the breastfed infant may be more frequent but of shorter duration and lesser intensity. Its relation to pain threshold is unclear. Findings on the breastfed infant’s sleep appear to suggest that sleep latency is shorter in duration, sleep intervals are of shorter duration, and arousability is greater. The breastfed infant’s sleep architecture may relate to child health. Some potential benefits relate to the incidence of SIDS, enuresis, and obesity. Breastfed newborns show more optimal social behavior, alertness, motor development, and neurological organization. Correspondingly, they have been found having longer heart rate, elevated heart period variability, and higher vagal tone, suggesting more optimal physiological organization. These strengths may contribute to superior cognitive skills, especially the ability to concentrate. They may also help advance cognitive and social development through their enhancing effects on parenting behavior.


Breast Milk Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Infant Behavior Breastfed Infant Cortical Arousal 



Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder


Docosahexaenoic acid






Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale


Rapid eye movement, or active, sleep state


Secretory Immunoglobulin A



The authors are indebted to the families who participated in this research. We thank the students and colleagues who helped carry out the research, and appreciate funding through a Texas Tech University Seed Grant for Multidisciplinary Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sybil L. Hart
    • 1
  • Shera C. Jackson
  • L. Mallory Boylan
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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