Early feeding practices and childhood obesity

Many studies have shown that infants who are breastfed have lower risk of obesity compared to children who are formula fed.

With the high rates of child obesity in the U.S., many are wondering how early feeding practices might affect a child’s weight status. Many studies have shown that infants who are breastfed have lower risk of obesity compared to children who are formula fed. Other studies have revealed that the timing of introduction to solid foods may play a role in a child’s weight status. In a study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, researchers considered both of these factors together. In this study, researchers measured the growth of nearly 7,000 children born in 2001 at various times from birth through five years. At these specific points, parents were also asked about the children’s feeding experiences.  As shown in other studies, children who were breastfed were more likely to have a healthy weight status at ages 2 and 4 compared to children who were never breastfed. Children, either breastfed or not, who were introduced to solid foods when they were less than four months old were less likely to have a healthy weight status at ages 2 and 4 compared to children who first had solid foods when they were over four months old.  When breastfeeding and timing the introduction to solids were combined, children who were breastfed and introduced to solids over four months of age had the lowest risk of obesity at 2 and 4 years of age. At two years of age, these children had a 62 percent lower risk of obesity compared to children who were not breastfed and introduced to solids at less than four months of age. They were about 50 percent less likely to be obese at 4 years of age.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that childhood obesity can be a scary issue since it can be difficult to control what children eat and how active they are. This article gives insight that preventative feeding practices can be very effective in reducing children’s risk for obesity. These practices may teach children to regulate their food intake, a habit which can follow them into adulthood.

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