Master's Project Title:

Breastfeeding and Obesity: Examining the Magnitude of Association and Significance in Children

MCH Student:

Aviane Forde

Date of Defense:

June 2008


Objectives: Overweight and obesity status has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and developed countries.  The problem has spread among American youth and is disproportionately high in Hispanic, African American, Native American, and low-income populations.  In an effort to curb the epidemic, multiple strategies have been proposed, including preventive measures.  Among these, breastfeeding is suggested as a strategy to reduce the risk of overweight in later life.

Methods:  This critical literature review qualitatively examines the strength of the current evidence in establishing an association between breastfeeding and childhood overweight status.

Results:  Of the 17 studies examined, 6 showed no protective effect of breastfeeding on overweight status in childhood; however, lower percentages of mean BMI Z score, “at risk for overweight” and total fat mass were observed.  The remaining studies showed decreased odds of overweight among children that were breastfed.  Many of the studies also showed longer duration of breastfeeding result in lower percentages of overweight in the study population.

Conclusions:  The results of this review indicate that breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and prolonged duration should be heavily promoted to reduce disparities in overweight status among children.