Breastfeeding and fruit and vegetable intake in preschool
There appears to be a relationship between how long a baby is breastfed and how many fruits and vegetables the child eats in preschool.
We know that breastfeeding is good for the health of both mother and baby. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that infants who are breastfed may also have a better diet in preschool.
This study combined four different groups from Britain, France, Portugal and Greece, totaling nearly 10,000 children. The goal was to try to understand how early feeding practices affected fruit and vegetable intake in children 2-4 years old. Mothers were asked how long they breastfed and when they introduced fruits and vegetables to their infants in the first 1-2 years of the child’s life. The mothers were contacted again when the child was 2-4 years old and asked how often their children ate fruits and vegetables.
The study showed that there was no relationship between the time the babies first ate fruits and vegetables and how many fruits and vegetables the children ate in preschool. There was, however, a relationship between how long a baby was breastfed and how many fruits and vegetables the child ate in preschool, and this relationship was significant in the British and French groups, which had the most detailed information.
Compared to those who were breastfed for 3-6 months, children who were never breastfed were about 20 percent less likely to eat at least one vegetable each day and 20-30 percent less likely to eat at least one fruit each day. In the British study, researchers measured fruit and vegetable intake until the child was 13 years old and still found a significant relationship with breastfeeding duration.
What is the cause of this relationship? Based on previous studies, the authors believed that, when a baby is breastfed, he gets many different flavors from the breast milk that come from the mother’s diet. This may increase the child’s acceptance of fruits, and especially vegetables, when he eats them himself.
The Michigan State University Extension Breastfeeding Mother to Mother Program educates supports and encourages mothers to breastfeed their baby until he/she is one year of age. Additional information on breastfeeding your baby can be found in the fact sheet section of the same website.