Many studies have shown the health benefits of breastfeeding, for both mother and baby. Now, new research suggests how baby gets their milk can make a big difference in their development: a recent study concluded that breastfeeding is better than pumping—but in one very specific area.

The study published in Pediatrics found that breastfeeding directly versus pumping and feeding from a bottle led to a lowered obesity risk in babies as they grew older. Babies who were breastfed had slower weight gain and lower BMI scores.

The researchers collected data from over 2,500 infants and found that those who were breastfed had the lowest BMI scores at 12 months old. The study only focused on babies were fed breast milk for their first three months, indicating that breastfeeding via bottle or straight from the source during a baby’s earliest days could have a lasting impact late in life.

“Other data has shown quite nicely that if you have an elevated (BMI) early on in life, it sets you up for childhood and then adolescent obesity later on in life,” said Lars Bode, director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence at the University of California San Diego.

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The study did not determine why this difference between breast and bottle fed milk exists, but it was clear that the benefits are not an all-or-nothing situation. The more a woman breastfeeds, the more those benefits increase.

When it comes down to it, “any amount is better than none,” says study author Meghan Azad, research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. “The more you can do, the better. Every feed counts.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Courtesy of Amazon

 

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