Breastfeeding has long been recognized as a proven as the best way to provide nutrition to babies. It has been discovered in recent years that breast milk offers many more benefits to babies who are fed breast milk in their first year of life. One of the most interesting aspects of breast milk which has been studied is the ability it has to reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
The fundamental role it plays in reducing the risk of this devastating and growing problem in our country had me very interested. This is because I had suffered with being slightly overweight. I was fortunate because my parents recognized the issue and made lifestyle changes to help me achieve and maintain a healthy weight. I wanted to do what I could to prevent my child from having to go through the issues I had with being overweight. I figured the best way to do this would be to prevent it from happening from early on. I had planned on doing this by ensuring that I kept up with my healthy habits and teach them to my child when she started eating table food. The new research on breast milk showed me that I did not have to wait until then to prevent possible excessive weight gain for my child. I was so excited to learn this since I had already made the decision to breastfeed for all of the other great benefits I already knew it offered.
The breastfeeding and obesity link is now being recognized by government agencies and professional groups. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among the organizations that acknowledge the link. The experts who have studied this issue at the CDC in Atlanta estimate that more over 15% of obesity could be prevented through breastfeeding. The AAD says to get this effect from breast milk that babies should be fed breast milk for the first 6 months of their lives.
Researchers have identified several possible reasons for breast milk having this effect on children. One of reasons is because the breastfed infants may be better at self-regulating the amount of food they consume since they only eat until they are full. This is opposed to bottle fed babies who may be prompted to feed until a bottle is emptied. Another reason is thought to be because breast fed children grow into children who are more likely to try and enjoy new foods which are introduced into their diet. This is important because a healthy diet needs to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Since breast milk contains flavors from the food consumed by the mother, breastfed infants are exposed to a variety of tastes early in life.
It is also believed that breast milk has different effects than formula on a baby’s metabolism and hormones, such as insulin which indicate when the body needs to store fat. This effect is thought to be seen in the fact that formula fed babies are generally have more fat than breastfed children at the age of 1 year old.
All of this information can make any mother who breastfeeds feel even better about her decision to do so.