Mixed feeding increases risk of childhood obesity, warns health agency
Feeding a baby with both breast and bottled milk increases the risk of obesity compared with exclusively breastfeeding, research suggests.
A new study from the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that babies who are never or only partially breastfed have an increased risk of becoming obese as children.
The study was led by a team from the National Institute of Health in Lisbon and presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.
The research paper is part of the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (Cosi).
Overall, experts analysed data from 22 countries and included more than 100,000 six to nine-year-olds.
The research found that, compared with children who were breastfed for six months, children who were never breastfed were 22% more likely to be obese.
Meanwhile, those who were breastfed for less than six months were 12% more likely to be obese.
The authors said: "In general, breastfeeding practices in Europe fall short of WHO recommendations, due to inefficient policies to encourage breastfeeding, lack of preparation of health professionals to support breastfeeding, intensive marketing of breast milk substitutes, and problems in legislation on maternity protection, among others."
Kate Brintworth, head of maternity transformation at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "This work contributes to the already strong evidence base about the many benefits of breastfeeding for mother and her baby and reinforces the need to increase the resources that are put into supporting women to begin and maintain breastfeeding for at least the first six months of the baby's life."