Breastfeeding provides the optimal nutrition for the visual development of children.
Whilst it is known to have many bonuses for children’s general health, breastfeeding is not often discussed at an eye exam. This may soon be about to change as recent studies have shown that breastfeeding has many visual benefits.
Human milk contains carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin which are known to improve macular pigment density. This can have a protective antioxidant effect on infant and adult retinas and protect against age-related macular degeneration. The other antioxidant properties that human milk has could help protect against other types of ocular diseases.
The reduction in the risk and severity of retinal disorders associated with premature birth (retinopathy of prematurity) is one very significant factor of the benefit of breastfeeding
Allergic eye disease has been shown to be reduced by breastfeeding. Although there is only a small amount of evidence to support this.
The incidence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is shown to be reduced through breastfeeding. Both types can potentially have a very negative effect on the health of the eye. Currently there is a limited amount of research into the specific link between breastfeeding and diabetic retinopathy.
Results show that 3D vision (stereopsis) is consistently better in breastfed infants. Good stereopsis indicates greater early visual development which is extremely important during the critical years as the complex visual system evolves.
Advice on duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding always present a challenge to health professionals. However, to date, it is unanimously accepted as being important to breastfeed for at least 17 weeks.