7 Tips to Prevent Obesity in a Breastfed Baby

mother breastfeeding baby

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Babies who breastfeed are less likely to become overweight or obese compared to formula-fed infants. Breastfeeding may actually help to prevent obesity in infants and children. It is also believed to contribute to healthy eating habits and the maintenance of a healthy weight throughout childhood and into adulthood. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't possible for your breastfed child to gain too much weight.

Younger breastfed children who are exclusively breastfeeding can become overweight if they spend long periods of time nursing at the breast. Another issue that can affect younger infants is an overabundant supply of breast milk.

If you produce too much breast milk, your baby may show signs of colic and excessive weight gain.

Older breastfed children may begin to gain too much weight after the introduction of solid foods. Overfeeding solid foods, or giving your child too much junk food and sugary juice drinks, can indeed lead to weight gain.

If your baby measures between the 85th and 95th percentile for Body Mass Index (BMI), he will be considered overweight. If his BMI is above the 95th percentile, he will be regarded as obese. Here are 7 tips to prevent obesity and help keep your baby growing at a steady, healthy rate.

How to Prevent Excessive Weight Gain in a Breastfed Baby

  1. See your baby's health care provider on a regular basis for well visits Your child's doctor will chart and follow your child's height, weight, and BMI.
  2. Don't breastfeed your baby for very long periods of time. While you should nurse your baby on demand and let your child nurse for as long as she needs to, excessively long feedings (over 45 minutes) could indicate a problem.
  3. If you have an overabundant milk supply, you may want to consider offering only one breast at each feeding. When you nurse on only one side at each feeding, it may help to decrease gas, fussiness and weight gain in your baby.
  4. Some children just like to suck even when they aren't hungry. If your child has a greater need for non-nutritive sucking, try a pacifier or other soothing comfort measures.
  5. Spend time playing with your baby and providing your child with activities that allow movement. Don't keep your child swaddled or restrained in an infant seat all the time. As your child gets older, encourage even more activity.
  6. Once you begin adding solid foods to your baby's diet, limit or avoid empty calorie junk foods and sugary drinks. Small pieces of soft fruit or cut-up cooked vegetables make excellent introductory snacks. By introducing your child to healthy foods right from the start, you can create a foundation for healthy eating habits as he grows.
  7. If you have any concerns about your baby's growth, weight, or BMI, consult your child's doctor for information and assistance. You should NEVER withhold feedings or underfeed your child to try to prevent obesity.
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Article Sources

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  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2011.

  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.