Statistics have it that mothers who breastfeed their babies reduce their risk of becoming obese when they get older, research has shown.
A study of 740,000 post-menopausal women found that the more children a woman had, the heavier she was likely to be in later life. But average Body Mass Index (BMI) was lower in women who had breastfed – irrespective of how many times they had given birth.
Every six-month period of breastfeeding reduced a woman’s long-term BMI – a standard measurement relating weight to height – by one per cent, according to the findings published in the International Journal of Obesity.
This was after taking account of factors known to influence obesity risk, including smoking, exercise levels, and social deprivation.
Professor Dame Valerie Beral, director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University and a member of the study team, said: ‘Our research suggests that just six months of breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later life.
‘A one per cent reduction in BMI may seem small, but spread across the population of the UK that could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.’
Lead author Dr Kirsty Bobrow, also from Oxford University, said: ‘We already know breastfeeding is best for babies, and this study adds to a growing body of evidence that the benefits extend to the mother as well – even 30 years after she’s given birth.
‘Pregnant women should be made aware of these benefits to help them make an informed choice about infant feeding.’