Previous studies have suggested breastfeeding may help ward off obesity as children get older. The theory, though, has been inconclusive, with limited long-term data available on breastfeeding and weight of children into adolescence.
Researchers conducted long-term studies aimed at clarifying the situation. In both, investigators followed more than 2,000 children for 18 years to see how breastfeeding impacts weight. Detailed breastfeeding histories were collected for all the participants in the studies.
Results of the study showed little connection between breastfeeding and subsequent weight among the children. After adjusting for factors such as physical activity, diet and smoking, children who were breastfed for an intermediate period of time (three to five months) were less likely to be obese than all other children, and there was a decreasing trend in obesity with increasing duration of predominate breastfeeding, but the investigators caution these links are difficult to interpret.
The British study found no link at all between breastfeeding and obesity, a finding that held true even after adjustments were made to take other factors that could have impacted weight of the children into account.
Thus researchers conclude, "Promoting breast feeding is important, but evidence for an important beneficial effect on obesity is still equivocal."