National Academy of Medicine

Can Breastfeeding Protect Against Childhood Obesity?

By Rafael Pérez-Escamilla
August 02, 2016 | Discussion Paper

Breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits to children and women globally. For this reason, international health organizations and American expert groups strongly support this infant feeding behavior. Given the high cost-effectiveness of breastfeeding in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology support exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months followed by the continuation of breastfeeding until the infant is 1 year old once complementary foods are introduced at around 6 months.

Although the evidence behind breastfeeding recommendations is overall consistent and strong, expert opinion is still divided on whether breastfeeding protects against the risk of childhood obesity or not. Thus, the objectives of this perspective are to (1) analyze the biological plausibility for expecting a causal relationship between breastfeeding and risk protection against childhood obesity, (2) present recent epidemiological evidence, and (3) identify future research areas to answer key remaining questions.



Suggested Citation

Perez-Escamilla, R. 2016. Can Breastfeeding Protect Against Childhood Obesity? NAM Perspectives. Discussion Paper, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. doi: 10.31478/201608a


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.