More and more women are being encouraged to breastfeed after giving birth, from local, state and federal governments to the American Academy of Pediatrics promoting benefits like the nutritional properties and sheer convenience. But one oft-mentioned upside—that childhood obesity risk can be lowered—is now being questioned in a new study.
According to the Star-Ledger, "Researchers looked at nearly 14,000 healthy infants in Belarus, and concluded that improving the exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding did not result in a lower risk of obesity among the children at age 11.5 years." The new study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says, "Breastfeeding has many advantages but population strategies to increase the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding are unlikely to curb the obesity epidemic."
The study does add, "Although breast-feeding is unlikely to stem the current obesity epidemic, its other advantages are amply sufficient to justify continued public health efforts to promote, protect and support it."
HealthDay News reports that Montefiore Medical Center's Dr. Deborah Campbell, director of the division of neonatology, doesn't think these findings can be translated to the U.S.'s population, because Belarus has more homogenous ethnic and racial background: "They also have universal health care, and a population with higher education levels than the United States. These differences make it difficult to translate these findings to a U.S. population, she said." She also added that there was some overlap with the different groups in the study and that diet and physical activity levels of the children obviously play a role in children's obesity levels.
So: Breastfeed your babies if you can, since it's great for them and can be for you as well. But if you can't breastfeed them, don't feel bad—you're not alone. Just don't drink sodas over 16 ounces.