When it comes to breastfeeding and obesity, what’s good for the baby is good for the mother as well. Earlier research has found that breastfeeding tends to reduce the risk of childhood obesity. A new study has found that mothers who breastfeed also may reduce their risk for obesity in the future.
Breast milk benefits
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding benefits infants as well as their mothers for a number of reasons. Breast milk is the ideal food for most infants because breastfed babies receive anti-bodies from breast milk that protect against infection and breastfeeding is less expensive than buying baby formula.
Diet is an integral component of infant growth and development and breastfeeding benefits that continue into childhood and adolescence. A 2001 study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that formula-fed babies introduced to solid foods before 4 months of age were six times more likely to be obese by age 3.
Breastfeeding and future BMI
A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity by researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K has found that breastfeeding may help mothers control their weight and make them likely to weigh less later in life.
The researchers analyzed data from the Million Women Study, a project investigating how reproductive and lifestyle choices affect women’s health. Out of more than 700,000 current participants, 88 percent bore at least one child and 70 percent said they breast-fed an average of 7.7 months. For every 6 months those mothers breast-fed their babies, their body mass index (BMI) was 1 percent lower on average—even decades after giving birth.
Risks drop along with BMI
While the exact reason why breastfeeding lead to reduced BMI years into the future wasn’t investigated in the study, the researchers said it’s apparent that breast-feeding may help mothers maintain a healthier lifestyle for the long-term. A 1 percent lower average BMI may not seem like much, but other research suggests that the percentage of risk for death from any cause drops in parallel with BMI.
According to the authors, a 1 percent reduction in BMI spread across the population of the U.K. could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nothing but breastfeeding for at least four months, but preferably six months. Even though most babies are ready to begin eating solid food between 4 and 6 months, the group advises mothers to supplement solid foods with breastfeeding until the child is at least a year old.