Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight status

photo: courtesy of Tri County Health Department

photo: courtesy of Tri County Health Department

Can breastfeeding prevent childhood obesity?  It’s a timely question, and many people believe it’s true.  But is there actual evidence?  A recent study “Early Childhood Healthy And Obese Weight Status: Potentially Protective Benefits of Breastfeeding and Delaying Solid Foods” looked at how breastfeeding and infant solid foods might influence the weight status for children later on in life.  The study included 7,000 children, who were assessed at 2 and 4 years of age for weight.  The researchers found that the children who were breastfed for 4 months had lower obesity risk at 2- and 4 years of age.  Even among those who were not breastfed, their risk for obesity decreased when the introduction of solid foods were delayed until after 4 months of age.

The results of this study support the idea that infant feeding plays an important role in child development, reducing risk of overweight.  On the other hand, early introduction of solid foods might raise the risk for obesity.

Another study looked at the effect of prolonged breastfeeding, to 6 months, on infant health.  Besides promoting a healthier weight status, babies who were breastfed also had fewer gastrointestinal infections, less risk for certain types of allergies, better cognitive prognosis, and better scores in developmental tests.

Breastfeeding has many benefits but it can be inconvenient and requires a great deal of planning, especially if the mom works outside the home.  Building a supportive environment for breastfeeding is especially important for breastfeeding success.  Support groups and classes are available at the hospital or in private informal organized by other moms. Information can be obtained through the hospital or the bulletin board at the doctor’s office.  Three major reputable online websites that have lots of good information on breastfeeding and childcare knowledge are:

  1. LLLI.org (La Leche League)
  2. BabyCenter.com
  3. KellyMom.com

Here are some tips for breastfeeding success

  • Seek out information before giving birth.  This will help you get everything in place for breastfeeding: advice from lactation consultants and supplies like pumps, sanitation, storage bottles, etc.
  • Although skin-to-skin contact is good for both moms and babies, frequent pumping is also one of the best ways to increase milk supply.  The body produces a hormone called oxytocin that is responsible for producing breast milk and frequently expressing breast milk keeps up with the level of oxytocin in our body.  Plus, the pumped breast milk can also be stored for later use.
  • Don’t wait. Ask for help right away when you have questions.
  • Hold off on a pacifier as babies might get confused and reject nipples after using pacifier. Until breastfeeding is well established between mom and the baby, try not to use a pacifier.
  • Join a support group.  Get together with other new moms who are also supportive of breastfeeding.
  • When you are breastfeeding, remember to drink lots of fluid to prevent dehydration.
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