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National Breastfeeding Month: New Studies and Why Breastfeeding is Important



August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month. To celebrate, we are highlighting some studies that discuss the importance of breastfeeding, self-soothing, and recognizing the importance of routines to encourage healthy weight, positive metabolic programming, and sleeping patterns down the road.

Research has long substantiated the benefits of breastfeeding. “Human milk provides the optimal mix of nutrients and antibodies necessary for each baby to thrive” and that “studies have shown us that breastfed children have far fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never receive breast milk, including a risk of SIDS, childhood cancers, and diabetes.” It has been found that one of the most important behaviors that we can encourage in order to decrease infant illness and death worldwide, is to increase breastfeeding rates.

This month a recent study examining responsive parenting intervention and rapid infant weight gain was released in JAMA Pediatrics and PEDIATRICS journals. This study examines if the “rapid weight gain during infancy are associated with increased fat mass, later risk of being overweight, and numerous comorbidities.” The study also examines the effects of interventions on long-lasting metabolic and behavioral consequences during the developmental infancy period.

The study addressed four infant behavioral states: drowsy, sleeping, fussy and alert, using Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories (INSIGHT) visits to help parents learn about alternative strategies besides feeding to calm a fussy infant. According to the study, “instead of explicitly focusing on nutrition, feeding, and obesity prevention in discussion with parents, INSIGHT use a “stealth” approach to preventing childhood obesity by promoting RP [responsive parenting] behaviors across infant behavioral domains…The focus on variables such as these is of more immediate interest to most parents of infants than obesity prevention.” The feeding component of the visit taught parents to recognize satiety and hunger cues, and “age-appropriate portion sizes." It also focused on using "food for hunger only and not as a reward, punishment, or to soothe a distressed but not hungry child.” 

The study found that those in the INSIGHT responsive parenting intervention program were positively influenced and that the infants developed appropriate bedtime routines, sleep-related behaviors, and longer sleep durations. This study, coupled with the importance of breastfeeding research and studies, shows promising results of forming positive patterns that will aid children in developing positive eating and sleeping habits, which in turn will promote the maintenance of a healthy weight throughout the child’s life span and lessen negative eating patterns and metabolic programming. “The exclusivity, as well as the duration, of breastfeeding must be considered when investigating the relationship between breastfeeding and obesity. All major medical organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for the first year and beyond, with the gradual introduction of appropriate complementary foods to the infant’s diet beginning around six months of age.”

Read more about how we can help prevent negative weight issues or tendencies in infancy in the new study in JAMA Pediatrics or PEDIATRICS journal.