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Breast-feeding Moms Less Likely to Regulate Food Later

Por Serena Gordon -

MONDAY, Nov. 1 2004 (HealthDay News) – New research finds that mothers who breast-feed are less likely to regulate their child's food intake as they grow.

One possible explanation: Breast-feeding mothers may be more attune to their child's nutritional needs. According to researchers, mother’s who breast-feed may be less prone to overfeeding, preventing the onset of weight gain and the subsequent decision to limit calories.
A study in the November 2004 issue of Pediatrics found that breast-feeding mothers were 73 percent less likely to regulate their 1-year-old’s food-intake than bottle-feeding mothers.

The study also found that the longer a woman breast-feeds, the higher the odds she won’t regulate food.

"There may be more communication between a breast-feeding mom and her baby than between a bottle-feeding parent and their baby," informed study co-author Dr. Matthew Gillman (associate professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston).

"When a breast-fed baby is satisfied, the baby detaches from the breast. The baby regulates intake. In bottle-feeding, mom or dad may see 4 ounces of formula left and urge the baby to finish, overriding the baby's appetite," he explained.

According to the latest research, breast-feeding is linked to lower rates of childhood obesity. According to Gillman, his colleagues and he wanted to figure out how breast-feeding protected against obesity, due to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity.

To answer that, the researchers studied nearly 1,200 mother-baby pairs already involved in the long-term study “Project Viva”. They gathered information on whether infants were bottle-fed or breast-fed and the length of time they were breast-fed.

The researchers also asked questions to find out if the mothers were limiting food or pressuring their 1-year-olds to eat. To measure restriction, the researchers asked the mothers whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: I have to be careful not to feed my child too much.  Another five questions were designed to find out if the mothers were pressuring their children to eat.
The average mothers’ age was 32, and 76 percent were Caucasian. At six months postpartum, 41 percent of the women had weaned their babies, with 24 percent still exclusively breast-feeding, 25 percent feeding both formula and breast milk, and ten percent feeding their babies formula exclusively.

Thirteen percent of the mothers agreed or strongly agreed with the restriction statement. The pressure-to-eat questions were rated on a scale of 0 to 20. The average score was 5.3.

For each month of exclusive breast-feeding, mothers were 11 percent less likely to restrict their 1-year-old’s eating. Mothers who breast-fed exclusively for six months were the least restrictive. Breast-feeding mothers were 73 percent less likely to regulate their children's food intake than bottle-feeding mothers.

Dr. Adam Aponte, chairman of pediatrics and ambulatory care at North General Hospital in New York City, said, “Breast-feeding mothers may be more knowledgeable about health-care issues.”

"Women who breast-feed tend to be more motivated and are often better health care consumers in general," Aponte said.
“However,” Gillman said, ”When it comes to attitudes toward children's eating patterns and childhood obesity, breast-feeding and bottle-feeding mothers are quite similar.”

"This is an interesting study," said Aponte, "It opens up a lot of questions."

Gillman said, “This study may prompt health-care practitioners to teach bottle-feeding parents to recognize when their baby is full and allow for more infant self-regulation.”

Both Gillman and Aponte acknowledged that parental attitudes are only one factor in childhood obesity. Aponte said,” Other big factors are feeding juice to babies and adding solids (like cereal) to babies' bottles. In addition, some cultures believe that a heavy baby is a healthy baby.”

More information
To learn more about the benefits of breast-feeding, visit the National Women's Health Information Center.

SOURCES: Matthew Gillman, M.D., associate professor, ambulatory care and prevention, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston; Adam Aponte, M.D., medical director, North General Diagnostic and Treatment Center, and chairman, pediatrics and ambulatory care, North General Hospital, New York City; November 2004 Pediatrics

HealthDay Report


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