Direct Breastfeeding Linked To Lower BMI Scores Than Pumping, Study Finds

A new study finds yet more evidence to support the argument that “breast is best,” reports CNN. Research has shown a link between babies who are fed breast milk directly from the breast instead of from a bottle and lower obesity risk.

A Canadian study published Monday in The Journal of Pediatrics used data from more than 2,500 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study to look at the effects of direct breastfeeding over pumping. The benefits of breastfeeding included slower weight gain and lower BMI scores at 3 months of age.

Study author Meghan Azad posed the question as to why pumped milk and milk directly from the breast reveal different results.

“Moms who pump go through a lot of effort to do that, and I wouldn’t want them to get the impression that it’s not worth it. But it does raise the question of, if pumped milk is not the same or not as good, why is that? And what should we be doing to support moms better around breastfeeding if that’s what they want to do?”

According to the study, the infants with the lowest BMI scores at 12 months were those who had been breastfed without formula and introduced to solid foods around 5 to 6 months of age. Researchers found that stopping breastfeeding before 6 months was linked to faster weight gain, a higher BMI at 12 months, and three times the risk of being overweight.

Director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence at the University of California San Diego, Lars Bode, commented on the effects of an elevated BMI during infancy.

“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.”

Bode also commented that a causal mechanism explaining why breastfeeding is better in terms of obesity risk has yet to be found but that it may have something to do with how breast milk components change when exposed to air, refrigerated, frozen, and thawed. It is also possible that babies have more control over how much they consume when breastfeeding as researchers did not test the amount consumed by direct breastfeeding babies.

Although researchers did not find a mechanism behind the benefits of direct breastfeeding vs pumped breastfeeding, the study reinforces the benefits of breastfeeding in general and can be used to send a message to policymakers about creating legislature to support breastfeeding moms.