Babies born to obese women have a significantly higher birth weight on average than those born to healthy, normal-weight women, which according to the researchers put them at higher risk from birth of being obese during childhood and adult life.
To look at the possible protective effect of breast milk on children’s weight, the department of pediatrics at the University of Granada, Spain, looked at the growth of babies born to 175 obese and normal-weight women during the first two years of life.
Participants were divided into three groups according to the food the babies received at 3 months of age — only breast milk, only infant formula milk, or a mix of both.
Using criteria from the World Health Organization (WHO), the children were then assessed at 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months of age.
The team found that babies born to obese mothers and who were exclusively breastfed had a lower weight at six months of age when compared to those fed with infant formula milk, which is recommended for babies that can’t be breastfed.
In addition, the weight for these breastfed babies corresponded to what it should be for their age and size in terms of body mass index (BMI), and in fact was even lower than that of breastfed babies born to normal-weight mothers and babies fed with infant formula milk.
The team also found that although the differences in weight were significant at 6 months of age, they were not seen at two years of age, which the researchers believe confirms an improvement and a ‘change of lane’ in the growth of children fed with breast milk and whose mothers are obese.
The researchers went on to explain that results also suggest a protective mechanism in breast milk, which appears to guard against the potential negative effect of the mother’s obesity, and possibly recover and improve the health of a baby that has experienced maternal metabolic alterations in the womb.