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Harvard Health Blog
The real link between breastfeeding and preventing obesity
Claire McCarthy, MD,
Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Thanks for writing a good balanced editorial on what has been a “controversial” topic in spite of mounting evidence that breastfeeding does offer a small but significant overall protection against the risk of childhood obesity. What the CHILD cohort study adds is that this benefit may be much stronger if breastmilk is fed from the breast instead of through a bottle – which is how many…many women are feeding expressed breastmilk in the USA. The authors provide very reasonable biological explanations from their findings making their results even more meaningful.
I had two kids. Went to work after two weeks, since I was self employed. Both my babies a breast fed, or fed by pumping milk while away from home. If I can do it anyone can.
Great way to prevent obesity in new moms too.
Hello. Thank you for the information in your article. I would like to say from my own experience that I breastfed 4 of my 5 children. While I would recommend it to others, I have to say the 2 of the breastfed children are overweight adults, 1 breastfed child has been obese since a young age despite being active in sports year-round, and the bottle fed child is also an obese adult and has struggled with weight since childhood. I think it is difficult to say that breastfeeding might prevent obesity when there are so many other factors such as genetics and the food offered in our markets depending where you live in the world. I still recommend breastfeeding for many of its other benefits, but if one has to bottlefeed, know that your children will be fine. I was a bottlefed baby and have not experience obesity issues or other health complications.
Haven’t there been any reliable studies on this made in countries with generous parental leave benefits, where you could more easily rule out the correlation breastfed=higher income=lower obesity? In Scandinavia most parent regardless of income levels are home for three months or more and most who are physically able to opt for breastfeeding.
Babies who are breast fed have a lower risk of common infections and therefore are prescribed fewer antibiotics. We know antibiotic therapy in infants and children increases the risk of obesity. So this is a second factor in avoiding obesity in children, they come through the early part of their lives with an intact micro biome, a big big plus.
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