UPBEAT: can breastfeeding help to prevent obesity in the babies of obese mothers

Researchers have looked at the body composition, growth and eating behaviours of 6-month old babies born to obese women.

This study is now complete

In the UK, one in four children aged between two and five are overweight or obese. Both maternal obesity and rapid weight gain during the first few months of life have been linked to the development of childhood obesity. We now want to find out whether there is a relationship between the way babies of obese mothers are fed in the first six months of their lives and the likelihood of them becoming obese themselves.

One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is that it is believed to help protect against the development of childhood obesity. As part of the UPBEAT study, which was the largest ever study in obese pregnant women, we met with over 350 mothers and their 6-month old babies to find out if there was any link between the way their baby was fed and its body composition, growth and eating behaviours.

Formula fed babies gained more weight

We found that formula fed babies had gained more weight than babies who were exclusively breastfed, and that breastfed babies seemed to enjoy their food more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the babies who had a bigger appetite also had a higher body fat percentage, regardless of whether they were breast or bottle fed.

Because of these results, we believe that obese pregnant women who are struggling to breastfeed should be given lactation support. In a follow-up study called UPBEAT-TEMPO, we are now investigating whether there is also a link between the way a baby was fed in the first 6 months of its life and its body composition, growth and eating behaviours at 3 years old.


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