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Breastfeeding and obesity prevention: All you need to know

Breastfed babies are at lower risk for obesity as they seem to be able to regulate their food intake better.

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
August 13, 2021 8:10:44 pm
breastfeeding and weight reduction, Breastfed babies and the risk of obesity, breastfeeding, advantages of breastfeeding, parenting, indian express newsIf you are exclusively breastfeeding, most likely there is no need for you to be worried about overfeeding your baby. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

By Joyce Jayaseelan

Multiple studies have found a correlation between breastfeeding and weight reduction, which is also one of the most serious health problems causing heart disease, diabetes, and even early death in both children and adults. Specialists have discovered that affiliations are dose-dependent. It provides your child with food that is not difficult to process while being exceptionally nutritious and your child helps decide how much to eat and when to eat it.

Both the breast milk itself and the manner in which your baby feeds help him/her to develop healthy eating patterns. Breastfed babies are at lower risk for obesity as they seem to be able to regulate their food intake better. Since breastfeeding serves as food for your child that is not difficult to process, easy to digest and full of nutrients, it’s a healthier and more nutritional alternative than early introduction of solids such as cereal or jarred baby food is as it can cause food hypersensitivities/allergies and higher risks of obesity.

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Potential explanations behind the relationship between breastfeeding and healthy weight management include:

  • Gut bacteria: Breastfeeding assists healthy bacteria to grow in a child’s digestive system, partaking in the functioning of their metabolism and immune system.

  • Self-regulation: Breastfed babies balance the amount of breast milk their parent produces with the amount they consume at a feeding (supply & demand). This helps babies learn early on about hunger and fullness cues.

  • Later introduction to solids: Shorter breastfeeding duration as well as introduction of solid foods before 5 months of age is associated with higher body mass indexes at 12 months.

Frequently-asked questions

How do I know when the baby is full and when to stop feeding? 

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, most likely there is no need for you to be worried about overfeeding your baby. Paying attention to cues like pulling off the nipple and turning away are common indications that the baby might be done eating.

Are there any health risks associated with feeding the baby more often or beyond its appetite?

If your baby is healthy and content, he/she is presumably not overfeeding. The baby might gain surplus weight, spit up occasionally, experience excessive gas or colic but this could be due to perfectly normal reasons like immature digestive tracts. The only downside could be learning to overeat early on in infancy, possibly setting a child up for unhealthy eating habits and premature programming for obesity.

When should I consult a paediatrician?

Get in touch with your doctor immediately if your child fails to reach the appropriate growth markers or exhibits excessive weight gain. Likewise, any severe gastric issues or behavioural problems should be brought to your doctor’s notice straight away.

(The writer is a lactation consultant at Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore)

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