An international study coordinated by professor Cristina Campoy from the department of Paediatrics at the University of Granada (UGR) has showed that breastfed infants born to obese women keep a lower weight over the first 6 months of life in comparison with those who weren't fed with breast milk.
In this work, the researchers analyzed the growth of babies born to 175 women (both obese and with normal weight) over the first two years of life who participated in Project PREOBE (www.proyectopreobe.com). The developmental study of the infants was carried out with 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months of age, following criteria from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Babies born to obese women show a birth weight significantly higher than those born to healthy women with normal weight. According to the researchers, this fact would, from the very birth, put babies born to obese women in a higher weight curve than those born to women with normal weight, thus increasing the risk of being obese during childhood and adult life.
The sample was divided according to the food the babies received with 3 months of age: only breast milk, only infant formula milk, or a mix of both.
A lower weight
The researchers found that children born to obese women who were exclusively fed with breast milk presented, with 6 months of age, a lower weight with respect to those fed with infant formula milk (which is recommended for babies that can't be breastfed).
These results hint at a protective mechanism of breast milk against the potential negative effect of the mother's obesity over growth and fetal development during pregnancy. Breast milk seems to have the ability of recovering the health of a baby that has experienced maternal metabolic alterations in the womb.
The results showed that, at 6 months of age, breastfed infants born to obese women had a weight under what would correspond to their age and size in the Body Mass Index (BMI), even lower than breastfed babies born to mothers with normal weight.
In the same way, the average measure of the arm circumference (a body composition marker) of breastfed infants born to obese women showed a lower profile over the first 6 months of life, in comparison with breastfed infants born to women with normal weight
As a conclusion, the researchers emphasize that breastfed babies born to obese women have a weight under what would correspond to their age and size in the Body Mass Index (BMI), lower than babies fed with infant formula milk and lower than breastfed babies born to mothers with normal weight. These differences were significant at 6 months of age but were not present at 24 months of age, which confirms an improvement and a 'change of lane' in the weight curve for children fed with breast milk and whose mothers are obese.
The research has been funded by the Andalusian Regional Government (Ref. Nº: P06-CTS-0234), the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Grant no. BFU2012-40 254-C03-01). The results have been recently shown at the 49th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN).
ESPGHAN Meeting Abstract: Growth of Infants Born to Obese Women: PREOBE Project, Liliana Ladino, Luz García-Valdés, Maria-Teresa Segura, Estefania Parejo-Laudicina, Maria-Teresa Miranda, Cristina Campoy.