Breastfeeding and Childhood Obesity

English: Breastfeeding an infant Português: Um...

Breastfeeding an infant  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every few years, breastfeeding becomes a hot topic. It raises questions about legality, decency, common courtesy and the rights of the mother. More recently, breastfeeding has been linked to another trending subject: childhood obesity. It was previously thought that breastfed children are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity. More recent studies, however, are showing this may not be the case.




Beginning in 1996, Harvard University teamed up with the University of Montreal to conduct a study of 15,000 mothers. Half the women were chosen to undergo training to encourage breastfeeding, while the other half received no support. Of these women, 43% of the supported mothers continued to exclusively breastfeed after three months. In contrast, only 6% of the untrained group continued to do so.


At the end of their first year, at age 6 ½ and again at 11 ½, the children went through regular checkups. Researchers found breastfed children:


  • Had higher IQ’s.
  • Experienced less gastrointestinal infections
  • Had fewer cases of eczema.

On the other hand, scientists reported there’s no differences between the breastfed children and the formula fed with:


  • Dental allergies
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Overweight and obesity

As it turns out, the recently released data from the 11 ½ mark revealed that approximately 15% of the children from both groups were considered overweight, and 5% were obese.




Previously performed studies concluded there’s a direct link to breastfeeding and obesity. Experts once thought that breastfed children learn to feed until their full instead of being forced to finish a bottle whether they’re full or not. However, prior research involved choosing breastfeeding mothers at random. This didn’t take into account a number of factors like dietary choices and education levels. Mothers that were chosen specifically which group they’d belong to eliminated these biases.


Additional Benefits


Despite new evidence that breastfeeding bears no weight on childhood obesity, there’s lots of other reasons to do so. Aside from the health benefits mentioned earlier, breastfeeding:


  • Promotes growth of your antibodies. These help decrease incidences with diarrhea and pneumonia.
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Decreases your cholesterol levels
  • Reduces your chances of ovarian and breast cancer.

Oddly enough, it’s also stated that if 90% of American families practiced breastfeeding exclusively for six months, the United States would save over $13 billion in medical costs annually.


Gaining Support


K.W. Kellogg Foundation conducted a poll regarding breastfeeding. What they found after surveying 1300 Americans is that a huge margin support breastfeeding. They feel that changes need to be made to the system to support these mothers. Some of the results were:


  • 68% feel hospitals should encourage and provide support to breastfeeding mothers.
  • 71% responded that public places such as malls and restaurants should have private and clean places set aside for mothers who need to feed their child.
  • 66% said workplaces should also provide time and safe places for mothers to pump milk, and a place to store it.

New evidence shows breast milk has no effect on obesity. However, research is likely to continue. With each subsequent study, the parameters will change and be refined until results are absolutely conclusive.


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