Breastmilk May Slim Risk Of Obesity In Children
"Obesity is increasing at astronomical rates, especially in children," said Joan Meek, MD, director of the outpatient pediatric center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women. "People think a fat baby is a healthy baby, but there are limits."
One possible explanation of the link between bottle-fed babies and obesity is that parents may tend to keep feeding a baby until a bottle is empty. Babies on the bottle may be developing larger appetites.
"With bottle-feeding, babies may not even be hungry," said Meek, adding that bottles are an easy solution when attempting to quiet restless babies, when hunger might not be the problem.
Conversely, breastfed babies have greater control over the amount of milk they consume, choosing whether or not to nurse, which may lead to better appetite control in the future. Another explanation may be that breast milk could contain ingredients that program the baby's metabolic rate. Even the best formula on the market is still only a copy, one that may lack important compounds specific for your baby, elaborated Meek.
"Breast milk is customized genetically for each individual baby," said Meek. "It changes to fulfill the baby's needs."
Normal amounts of weight gain in a newborn baby, after the mother's supply of milk has increased, is anywhere from one-half to one ounce per day until the baby reaches three months of life, after which weight increases should gradually taper off.
Parents should follow clues such as restlessness and sucking on fingers to let them know when a baby is hungry, rather than feeding them too much from a bottle. Meek stated that a good guideline for breastfeeding newborns is once every two to three hours, for a total of 8 to 12 feedings in 24 hours.
Breastfeeding should be used exclusively for the first six months of life, according to Meek, and should continue for at least one year, slowly introducing juice and solid food.
Breast milk protects against a number of other illnesses in babies besides obesity, including type-1 diabetes, ear infections, lymphoma and diarrhea. The American Academy of Pediatrics designates each August as National Breastfeeding Month.
"Breast milk is wonderful," said Meek. "Breastfeeding is easy, inexpensive and good for the baby."