Makers of baby formula pounced on DHA and ARA once evidence started mounting that these acids made breast-fed babies smarter. Breastmilk is loaded with DHA and ARA, which help build neural connections in developing brains.
Whether fortifying formula with the fatty acids made for smarter babies hasn’t been shown until now. A new study in the journal Child Development offers evidence that — under the right circumstances — it works.
Around 200 9-month-olds, who were divided into groups based on whether and for how long there were fed formula with and without the fatty acides, performed rattle and blanket tests.
In one test, for example, the rattle was placed out of reach on the blanket. In order to get the rattle, the 9-month-olds had to pull the blanket to get the rattle.
For babies who were fed the fortified formula since birth or after having been weaned no later than at six weeks old, they performed better than the infants who didn’t get the fatty acids.
In fact, researchers report that of those who were given the DHA formula since birth, 51 percent successfully performed all three tests, compared to 29 percent who got the regular formula.
Now here’s the really interesting part: of those who were weaned at six weeks, therby receiving less of the fortified formula, 46 percent successfully performed the three tests, compared to 13 percent who did not get the formula.
Oh, my! Are we to understand that the fortified formula was even better than breastmilk? Hell, the regular formula was even better than breastmilk? Maybe, but also maybe not.
Apparently babies who were weaned between 4 an 6 months performed the tasks equally well no matter what kind of formula they had been given since weaning.
The release of this study has some pediatricians and breast-feeding advocates concerned that this is the first step in a marketing ploy to get women to choose formula over breastfeeding. (That step was taken long before I was born, but I get what they’re saying.)
Interviewed for ABC News, Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician with Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., said that adding DHA may make the formula better than other milks, it doesn’t make it superior to breast milk.
“There are many other factors in human milk that also support neurocognitive development and visual acuity,” said Feldman-Winter.
I’d like to know who paid for and conducted the study. Also, why weren’t exclusively breast-fed babies included in the study? For those who were said to be weaned at six weeks, were they breast-fed exclusively until weaning or did their mother’s supplement. And, if so, did they supplement in those early weeks with regular formula or the fortified stuff. Also, how much did they supplement. I’d ask the same questions of those who were weaned at six months.
Photo: LA Times