Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk of Childhood Obesity

breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity

While breastfeeding advocates have long touted the benefits of breastfeeding as a way to help keep pounds off the mother later in life, new evidence indicates that it may also help prevent childhood obesity. While the benefits of breastfeeding for a newborn alone are enough to persuade women to make that choice when feasible, knowing that it can prevent both childhood obesity and later weight gain in the moms may help persuade those who are on the fence.

Facts about Breastfeeding and the Mother’s Future Weight

A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity involved over 700,000 women in their post-menopausal years. The average age of the women was around 57.  The study questioned women about their breastfeeding habits as well as the number of children they had in their childbearing years.

  • Women who breastfed their children had a Body Mass Index (BMIS) of about 1% less than those who formula fed.
  • The results were pretty steady even among those who had multiple children.
  • While those who gave birth several times did have a higher BMI than those who only had one child, the BMI of the breastfeeding group was lower than those who formula fed and had the same number of children.
  • A 1% decrease in BMI is often enough to prevent premature death related to heart disease and other conditions associated with obesity.

Breastfeeding and Childhood Obesity

Breastfeeding a newborn may also prevent future childhood obesity. While some studies indicate that breastfeeding has only a very small effect on childhood obesity, the effect seems to be fairly persistent. Of course, breastfeeding alone isn’t enough to help prevent children from becoming overweight. Making good food choices throughout life and educating your child about the importance of eating healthy can go a lot further than simply breastfeeding and hoping for the best.

One of the reasons that breastfeeding may help childhood obesity is that breastfeeding is more instinctual. In healthy mothers, the body knows how much milk to produce and when to “shut off” the flow. With formula, it’s is often way too easy to over-feed your baby. Breastfed babies are typically considered better at self-regulating their milk intake.

Unlike formula, breast milk contains hormones that play a major role in metabolism. Breastfeeding your baby also provides them with the exact nutrients they need- no supplements necessary. Formula tends to be higher in protein, and while that may seem like a good thing, too much protein can also increase the risk of childhood obesity.

Again, it is important to understand that preventing childhood obesity is an ongoing process, and there is no magic cure. Breastfeeding may help, but it is the day-to-day lessons that you teach your child about eating that make the biggest difference in the long run. Choosing to formula feed does not doom your child to a life of being overweight any more than choosing to breastfeed means that they can eat cake all day long and never gain a pound. It’s all about balance and good education.


3 thoughts on “Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk of Childhood Obesity”

  1. I wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your children to give them a great start at life. Thank you for the article.

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