Breastfeeding doesn't only help strengthen the developing immune system of infantsScience Daily reports that it may also deter autism.

According to Gary Steinman of the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, low levels of the protein insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which may be determined via an umbilical cord blood test, could be a signal of autism in a child.

IGF has been known to provide the brain with essential compounds, which helps in cognitive development. It is associated with the production of myelin, an insulating material which forms around the axons of neurons, and is responsible for the transmission of messages from the brain to other parts of the body in order.

Dr. Steinman believes that less IGF may result in poorer mental development, which could lead to autism. But not all hope is lost. As breast milk is known to be a good source of different proteins, Dr. Steinman recommends that mothers nurse their newborns as often as they can in order to curb any risk of cognitive issues.

"Those who embrace the hypothesis that IGF is indeed an autism biomarker should advocate and encourage breastfeeding as a highly accessible means of supplementing an infant's natural levels of protein," he says.

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(Photo by Mothering Touch via Flickr Creative Commons)

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