“So, does breastfeeding lower the risk of childhood obesity? My conclusion is yes; but only in infants at higher risk for obesity and are breastfed for longer durations. In addition, as obesity is multifactorial, breastfeeding alone is unlikely to entirely prevent it. This study, however, adds to the evidence that breastfeeding should remain one of multiple recommended practices to stem the obesity epidemic.” -Larry Noble MD, FABM, IBCLC
This article speaks to the topic of increasing breastfeeding duration not just initiation. The simple truth is that breastfeeding presents many challenges. Many families who might be considered to be in the “higher risk for obesity” category face more challenges and have limited resources. For example, many parents with lower education levels, limited financial resources, and hourly wage jobs are not able to maneuver around those challenges. They cannot take time away from their job easily to pump. They don’t truly understand the risk/benefit of breastfeeding long term. And they are often eligible for WIC which provides formula. And like many other mothers, they do not have a good support system to help guide them through the difficult moments. Breastfeeding often presents many difficult moments.
As a society, we need to do a better job helping families continue to breastfeed exclusively for longer periods of time. If we do not we will not see more widespread health improvements related to breastfeeding. Longer maternity leaves, improved social acceptance of breastfeeding, and more coaching to help families. These supports designed to help families overcome breastfeeding obstacles that they encounter needs to be the norm, not the exception. Most importantly, we need to provide information and guidance to families in a non-judgmental manner. No one wants to be guilted into breastfeeding.
Did you know that WIC has Peer Counselors who not only educate families about breastfeeding, but offer heartfelt support? Do you know what the Baby Cafe is? Do you know that ZipMilk has a directory of lactation consultants in every zipcode in Massachusetts?
We can do better! I have said it before and I will continue to say that we have made great strides in some aspects of increasing breastfeeding rates. But we need to push onwards and offer additional ways for mothers to breastfeed their babies for longer periods of time. And then I hope we can easily say that the increased breastfeeding rates have helped decrease the risk of childhood obesity.
To read the specifics about research related to this topic read this: