When it comes to breast or bottle-feeding, there's really no end to the debate and, let's be real, challenges and pressure that moms frequently face. Meanwhile, the research community continues to provide findings that could offer insight into the effect of both on L.O.s. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics has concluded that breastfeeding may affect a baby's body mass index (BMI). Higher BMIs early in life have been linked to childhood and adult obesity.
Researchers looked at 2,553 infants between 2009 and 2012. Babies who were partially breastfed, given some expressed breast milk, or exclusively given formula had a higher BMI at age three months than babies who were exclusively breastfed directly. Babies who stopped breastfeeding prior to the sixth-month mark were three times more likely to be overweight.
They also concluded that there are benefits of breast milk being delivered via breast versus via a bottle, which researchers were taken aback by. "I was surprised to find that the method of breast milk feeding matters: Our results show that feeding breast milk from a bottle is not equivalent to direct feeding at the breast (although it was still superior to feeding formula)," Meghan Azad, PhD, lead author of the study and a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, told Healthline. "Very few studies make this distinction—it is an important finding that raises new questions for further research."
This isn't the first study to make a connection between breastfeeding and BMI, but it is the first to find that the length of time an infant is breastfed makes a difference.“The beneficial effect of breastfeeding is stronger with longer and more exclusive breastfeeding, meaning that any is better than none, and every feed counts,” Azad said. “I think this is a positive and important message for moms."
When it comes to breastfeeding, every mother's experience is bound to be unique. Here's hoping these findings only serve to further inform the medical community and improve both babies' and moms' overall wellness.