As the US marks Health Weight Week, it's worth remembering that healthy weight begins in infancy and is facilitated by breastfeeding.
Studies show that mothers who do not breastfeed are more likely to retain the weight gained during pregnancy, and infants who are bottle-fed are more likely to become overweight or obese in later life.
"As we struggle with a world-wide obesity epidemic, we need to protect every woman's right to breastfeed her child," said Arthur Eidelman MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. In the U.S. and around the world, a growing number of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but few are able to achieve medical recommendations for six months of exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding through two years and beyond.
For mothers, exclusive breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day-the equivalent of an hour on a treadmill-and thus contributes to postpartum weight loss. Moreover, women who do not breastfeed are more likely to be overweight in later life, and are also more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
For children, breastmilk contains multiple hormones that regulate appetite, and infants who are breastfed show better appetite regulation in childhood. These differences have consequences for child health: children who are not breastfed are more likely to be overweight or obese, and face a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in later life than children who are breastfed.
"The obstacles that breastfeeding women face worsen the obesity epidemic," Eidelman said. Poor training for medical providers, disruptive maternity care practices, and aggressive marketing of formula all undermine maternal and infant health.
"The data are clear: Obesity prevention begins with breastfeeding," Eidelman said. "Policies that enable women to initiate and sustain breastfeeding must be a central part of the global obesity prevention agenda."
About the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a global organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation through education, research, and advocacy. An independent, self-sustaining, international physician organization and the only organization of its kind, the Academy's mission is to unite members of various medical specialties through physician education, expansion of knowledge in breastfeeding science and human lactation, facilitation of optimal breastfeeding practices, and encouragement of the exchange of information among organizations. It promotes the development and dissemination of clinical practice guidelines. The Academy has prepared clinical protocols for the care of breastfeeding mothers and infants that are available on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) National Guideline Clearinghouse website.
About the Journal Breastfeeding Medicine, the Official Journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published bimonthly in print and online. The Journal publishes original scientific papers, reviews, and case studies on a broad spectrum of topics in lactation medicine. It presents evidence-based research advances and explores the immediate and long-term outcomes of breastfeeding, including the epidemiologic, physiologic, and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, 140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215 (800) 990.4ABM (914) 740.2115 Fax: (914) 740.2101