Breastfeeding can cut the chances of a child becoming obese by up to 25 per cent, according to a major study involving 16 countries.
World Health Organization (WHO) experts are calling for more help and encouragement for women to breastfeed, as well as curbs on the marketing of formula milk.
“We need to see more measures to encourage breastfeeding, like properly paid maternity leave. We need less inappropriate marketing of formula milk, which may lead some mothers to believe it is as good for babies as breast milk,” Dr João Breda told The Guardian.
The data came from nearly 30,000 children monitored as part of the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (Cosi).
The study found that 16.8 per cent of children who were never breastfed were obese, compared with 13.2 per cent who had been breastfed at some time and 9.3 per cent of children breastfed for six months or more.
Kate Brintworth, head of maternity transformation at the Royal College of Midwives, said the study reinforced the need to put more resources into supporting women to breastfeed.
“We need both more specialist breastfeeding support for women after the birth and more time for midwives to offer the support women are telling us they need,” she said.