Does Prolonged Breast Feeding Protect Against Childhood Obesity?
Research has been somewhat mixed on the topic of breast feeding as a protection against the development of childhood obesity. A University of Copenhagen study examined over 5,000 men and women who were born between 1959 and 1961. At one year the babies who were breastfed for longer periods of time have lower body mass indices. At additional endpoints though, later into childhood adolescence and adulthood, there was no further correlation between the duration of breast feeding and the body mass index. But, the introduction of solid foods at an earlier age was associated with a small increased risk of being overweight at age 42.
It is a bit difficult to know how much credence to give this single study, however interesting. There are undoubtedly benefits of breastfeeding that include nutritional and immunologic benefits as well as psychological benefits to develop in babies. Whether delaying the introduction of solid foods past four or six months does protect against obesity it is a bit difficult to determine, though there may be some small affect at work here. Generally speaking, breast feeding in the early months is healthy for the developing baby and beyond the first three or four months it is difficult to discern the strong effects with the transition to formula and food.