Breast-Feeding and Obesity: What’s the Real Deal?

Dr. Greene explores contradictory studies about breastfeeding and obesity…

Breast-Feeding and Obesity

It can be demoralizing when you get contradictory information about health.

Two studies in the May 16th, 2001 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) appear, on the surface, to contradict each other. A large study from Harvard found that babies fed mainly breast milk were significantly less likely to be overweight by age 14. And the longer kids were breast-fed, the lower the chance of later obesity.

The other study, from the NIH, found that breast-feeding had only a minor effect in preventing obesity in children ages 3 to 5 (only 16% less likely to be obese). The duration of breast-feeding made no difference. The biggest predictor of a child’s weight was not breast-feeding, but the mother’s weight.

The two studies both make sense to me: they looked at different children in different ways. Rather than arguing about breast-feeding versus mom’s fitness to prevent obesity, let’s embrace both! We have few enough ways to make sure kids don’t end up overweight. Breast-feeding is clearly good. So is healthy nutrition and physical activity for involved adults and for the whole family.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

Got an idea, tip or a comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *