From the moment the pee dries on that positive pregnancy test, everything that expecting parents read and are told by doctors about baby nutrition is the same: Breast is best. The pressure is high for new moms to at least attempt breastfeeding; in fact, it's practically shoved down our throats. Though it's true that breastfeeding offers both mothers and infants a number of potential health benefits, sometimes — for one reason or another — it just doesn't work out in the long run. And that's OK, too. ("Fed is best" after all.) If you're expecting a little one, but you aren't quite convinced that breastfeeding is all it's cracked up to be, perhaps this may inspire you to give it a go — particularly if obesity runs in your family. That's because breastfeeding could have a huge impact on high-birthweight babies, according to a new study.
As Science Daily reported, new research from South Korea suggests that breastfeeding might protect high-birthweight infants from becoming overweight or obese as children. The results of this study were presented on Sunday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting held in Chicago. In a news release from the Endocrine Society, lead study author, Dr. Hae Soon Kim, explained the findings. "High birthweight is associated with overweight or obesity during early childhood. Among high-birthweight infants, exclusive breastfeeding is a significant protective factor against overweight and obesity." Kim continued:
High-birthweight infants were highly likely to meet the criteria for obesity or overweight through 6 years of age compared with normal birthweight infants. But the risk of becoming overweight or obese dropped significantly among the high-birthweight infants who were breastfed for first six months of life.
For the study, researchers looked at data from the National Health Information Database (NHID) of Korea, Science Daily reported. This included 38,039 participants from brith to age 6 — including their birthweight and weight-growth trajectory — between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2016. Participants were categorized into three groups: Low birthweight, normal birthweight, and high birthrate. What researchers found was 10 percent of low-birthweight babies and 15-percent of normal-birthweight babies went on to become obese or overweight. By contrast, more than 25 percent of high-birthweight infants were later considered overweight or obese. Here's the thing, though: If high-birthweight infants were exclusively breastfed for six months, the risk of them being overweight or obese by age 6 decreased significantly.
In the study's abstract, according to a news release, the authors offered the following warning:
The increase in the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity, which began in the 1970s, has grown into a global epidemic. Obesity persists from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood and is a leading cause of health problems.
Of course, this isn't exactly groundbreaking news — it merely reiterates one of many suspected benefits of breastfeeding. CNN, for example, reported about the correlation between formula-fed babies and obesity back in 2011. Infants who were formula fed and given solid foods before age 4 months had a higher risk of becoming obese, according to a mentioned study in the article. This, perhaps, is part of the reason the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age 1 alongside the gradual introduction of solid foods.
It sort of makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, exclusively breastfed babies have to work harder to extract milk from their mothers' breast when compared to the relatively passive act of drinking from a bottle with a steady flow. So bottle-fed babies may very well be taking in more milk at each feeding — which doesn't exactly help babies who are born at a high birthrate to begin with. Whatever the mechanics behind that fact that breastfeeding seems to lower a high-birthweight baby's risk for becoming overweight or obese as a child, it's hard to argue: Boobs are pretty darn amazing.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.