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Breast Milk May Prevent Obesity

by Lori Sciame | March 18th, 2011 | Infants/Toddlers

A new study published in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that the first months of a baby’s life may set the stage for the development of obesity in childhood. What the study found is significant: babies who are given formula and who begin eating solids before they are four-months-old are more likely to be heavy by the age of three.

Researchers came to this startling conclusion after they followed 800 babies for a period of three years. They found that those that were given formula and solid food before the four month mark tended to be heavier. This is significant, as other studies have shown that if a child is overweight when he or she is pre-school age, it is highly likely that he or she will remain that way into adulthood.

Sometimes well-meaning friends and relatives can push a new parent into introducing solid foods too early. This is because there is a common misconception that solid food will help the baby sleep for longer periods at night. Others think that babies need more “substantial” nourishment to grow properly. But, as the study suggests, it’s best to wait until the child is four months of age before adding cereal, fruit, and/or vegetables to his or her diet.

If you are confused about introducing your child to solid food, you are not alone. When deciding whether to introduce your baby to cereal, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Can my baby hold his or her head up?
  2. Does my baby sit without support?
  3. Is my baby curious about what I eat?

If you can honestly answer yes to all three questions, and your baby is four-months-old, it may be time to introduce solids. Your doctor can be a great resource during this process. Also, you can find information online at, a website sponsored by the American Association of Pediatrics.

Breast milk, however, should still be given to your baby even after solids are introduced. The National Women’s Health Foundation asserts that the longer a baby is breastfed, the lower the odds that he or she will become overweight. In fact, they state that there is a 30 percent decrease in the odds of becoming overweight for a child breastfed for nine months than in a child who has never been breastfed. (Many doctors recommend that babies continue receiving breast milk until the age of one).

What lessons can be learned from this study? Basically that breast milk is the best choice for an infant, and that it is important to wait until a baby is four months or older to introduce solids, such as cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Additional Benefits of Breast Milk (National Women’s Health Information Center)

  • Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma.
  • Breastfed babies are protected from certain infections.
  • Breastfed babies have less of a chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Moms who breastfed have a decreased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
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