Study correlates breastfeeding with lower risk of eating disorders

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I went a little hog wild picking out some new magazines to read this month, but one I especially look forward to is my Food and Nutrition Magazine.  I am also super excited to share a finding it published that relates breastfeeding and positive outcomes to lower risk of eating disorders in children.

According to a recent study of 129 children published in “Apetite”, longer breastfeeding duration (up to 15 months) is correlated with fewer difficulties related to emotional eating for boys at age 12.

Another win for breastfeeding moms!

Breastfeeding isn’t always about the food – or else the hashtag #imthepacifier wouldn’t have taken hold as it has. Often, babies seek the breast simply for comfort. This is what nutritionists and IBCLCs call “non-nutritive sucking.” To have comfort come in the form of a person rather than food might help a baby and growing child find alternative ways to assuage their stress than carb-heavy foods.

But of course, this is truly speculative on my part. Draw your own conclusions.

That’s great, you say, but what happens with girls who breastfed? Unfortunately, the girls in this study did not fair as well. While they did not find a correlation between breastfeeding and 12-year-old girls’ eating habits, they did say there was a connection between the education level of a mother and her daughter’s emotional eating habits.

Food insecurity and obesity is a well-known correlation with lower educated families, simply due to a family’s monetary status and inability to afford healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables for their families.

I can see why a girl might be more apt to adopt unhealthy habits if 1) mom is unhappy with her own body and often voices her opinions of herself, and 2) if the family is unable to afford food that is nutritious and healthy. If she cannot lose weight any other way, I can see her avoiding high-calorie foods by avoiding eating altogether or severely limiting her intake.

Without access to proper nutritious food, and the education on what healthy eating and portion sizes look like, that can have long lasting effects on a girl who can feel fat-shamed by her community and/or media, and continues to try to do something about it.

It’s something we as nutritionists are very aware of and are working hard to close that gap.

While breastfeeding female babies are not always positively correlated with healthy eating habits, it has many other amazing benefits:

  • Lowers risk for the baby to develop
    • allergies
    • asthma
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • obesity
    • fewer colds
    • UTIs
    • IFS (inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Babies who breastfeed on average experience fewer ear  and respiratory infections, and
  • Experience fewer dental problems
  • Lowers the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

 

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