New research challenges a long-held belief by suggesting breastfeeding is unlikely to prevent a baby from becoming overweight in the future.
The lead author of the study, Richard Martin, said: "It's just a reality check that in itself, promoting breastfeeding, while a good thing and will have other health benefits, is unlikely to have any effects on stemming the obesity epidemic.”
The study compared two groups of around 8500 mothers and their babies. Although only one group of babies were born at hospitals that had implemented the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) breastfeeding program, all of the infants were breastfed at birth.
At three months of age, 43 per cent of the babies born at the WHO breastfeeding intervention hospitals were still being exclusively breastfed, compared to only six per cent of babies in the second group.
As the study groups were tracked over the years, the researchers found reduced incidences of eczema and infections and improved memory and thought processing skills in the children who were born in the breastfeeding-encouragement hospitals.
However, out of the 14,000 children who were tracked to age 11, the researchers found no weight or height differences were linked to breastfeeding.
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