Background: Human milk provides infants with a full complement of all polyunsaturated fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Formula milks only contain the precursors of DHA, AA and linoleic acid, and hence formula-fed infants must synthesize their own DHA and AA. Aim: To evaluate the effect of feeding—whether breastfeeding or formula-feeding—in early infancy upon subsequent neurodevelopment and achievement of optimum brain function. Subjects and methods: The study included 53 normal, healthy infants (30 exclusively breastfed infants and 23 exclusively formula-fed infants) at the age of 1 y (±1 mo). Each infant was subjected to a full physical and neurological examination together with neurophysiological studies including flash visual evoked potential (FVEP), brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) and somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP). Results: There was significant prolongation of P100 wave latency of FVEP in formula-fed infants, together with significant prolongation of absolute latency of waves I, III and V of BAEP in formula-fed infants compared with breastfed infants. There was significant prolongation in inter-peak latencies between cortical and Erb's components in formula-fed infants compared with breastfed infants.
Conclusion: We can conclude that VEP, BAEP and SSEP are more mature in breastfed infants relative to formula-fed infants at 1 y of age, and thus breast milk helps earlier development and maturation of some aspects of the nervous system than milk formulas.