We have known for years that breast is best when it comes to feeding our babies, but now, its health benefits are being promoted as a tool in the battle against obesity. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child decreases each month he or she is breastfed.
“Breastfeeding has been shown to be a protectant against childhood obesity,” says Maeve Howett, PhD, APRN, CNP-Ped, IBCLC, assistant clinical professor at Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and president of the Southeastern Lactation Consultants Association. “When a child is breastfed, he is almost eight times less likely to be obese as a child.”
One in five preschoolers is overweight, with half of those being obese. According to recent studies, breastfeeding offers the best protection against obesity when it is practiced exclusively – no formula or solid foods – for three months and then continues for the baby’s first year with the addition of appropriate foods at ages four to six months. Though science is not yet conclusive as to exactly why breastfeeding is such a powerful deterrent of obesity, theories abound.
“It may have something to do with satiety influences – that feeling of fullness so that you turn away from the table,” says Howett. “When children are breastfed, we don’t know what goes in. It is hard for us to measure, so a mom will feed her baby until the baby pulls away and is sleepy and satisfied. The baby gets to determine how full he is. When you’re bottle-feeding a baby, you do tend to encourage that last drop. It’s really important to understand that if the baby gets to determine satiety, they get to determine their feeling of fullness. That might be a behavior that continues throughout childhood.”
Emory University Hospital Midtown supports our patients in their decision to breastfeed. Expectant mothers can take a prenatal breastfeeding class. If you have questions or feedback, you can either leave them for us in the comments below, or call our breastfeeding support services at 404-686-2883 for answers to any questions regarding breastfeeding.