Breastfeeding - A Prophylactic to Obesity?

What is it about breastmilk that it can have such a preventative impact on weight years later? There appear to be numerous answers to that question. Babies who are breastfed are better able to program themselves to stop eating when they are full; they learn to self-regulate their caloric intake over time. Parents who bottle-fed want their infant to finish the formula and often over-feed their child. Over-feeding in infancy can increase the number of fat cells. Babies fed formula in the critical early weeks of postnatal life have changes in pancreatic islets and leads to overproduction of insulin and development of obesity in adulthood. Breastfed babies have higher levels of leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite. And feeding a child formula helps develop their natural affinity for foods that are fatty and sweet. Formula is made with sucrose (essentially table sugar) that is much sweeter than lactose, the sugar found in breastmilk.

Experts caution that breastfeeding is certainly not the sole answer to the childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, the clearest predictor of which children will grow up too fat remains genetic -- children with fat parents are five times more likely to be fat. And kids who eat unhealthy diets and don't exercise will become overweight no matter what shape their parents are in. Yet, this new research makes the list of reasons to breastfeed just a little longer.

Reference Material:
When you go to this page, there is a link for the Resource Guide (PDF). Pages 32-36 are the section on BF.
UC Davis, Kathryn Dewey, Breast milk may help control growing appetite<
Matthew Gillman of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, (Journal of the American Medical Association)
•Hediger, M.L., Overpeck, M.D., Kuczmarski, R.J., & Ruan, W.J. (2001). Association between infant breastfeeding and overweight in young children. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2453-2460.
•King, D.E. (2001). Breastfeeding and overweight children and adolescents. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 16, 42.
Bavarian study, Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 16, 1999.•
• uids=10406746&dopt=Abstract
Breast feeding and obesity: cross sectional study.
von Kries R, Koletzko B, Sauerwald T, von Mutius E, Barnert D, Grunert V, von Voss H. Institute for Social Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Ludwig Maximilians University, Heiglhofstr 63, D-81377 Munich, Germany.

Dia L. Michels is co-author of Breastfeeding at a Glance: Facts, Figures and Trivia about Lactation and If My Mom Were a Platypus: Mammal Babies and Their Mothers. She can be reached at Reprinted with permission from Platypus Media is dedicated to portraying the values of family affection, sharing and growth, to give parents the resources to share and explore attachment values with their growing children. For more information, visit or call 1-877-PLATYPS (toll-free).