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Early years

01st Oct 2018

Breast milk straight from mum’s breast is better for babies than pumping says new study

Trine Jensen-Burke

Breastfeeding your baby is pretty much the best thing you can do for both their health and your own.

Much research have been conducted, showing the incredible and varied benefits of nursing your baby. And now a new study has been able to prove this even further, claiming that the ‘breast is best’ phrase is quite literally true, as giving a baby milk directly from the mother’s breast is even better for them than pumped breastmilk from a bottle.

According to a Canadian study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, the benefits of direct breastfeeding included slower weight gain and lower BMI scores at three months.

Still, experts are keen to stress that even pumped breast milk was superior to none at all, something which is in line with past research.

“Moms who pump go through a lot of effort to do that, and I wouldn’t want them to get the impression that it’s not worth it. But it does raise the question of, if pumped milk is not the same or not as good, why is that? And what should we be doing to support moms better around breastfeeding if that’s what they want to do?” explains research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba and lead study author, Meghan Azad.

Of more than 2,500 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development study, those with the lowest BMI scores at 12 months were those who were breastfed — without formula — and who started eating other foods around 5 to 6 months. (The researchers did not distinguish how infants were fed breast milk past the 3-month outcomes.)

The study is of importance, as researchers say this could impact children’s risk of becoming overweight or developing obesity down the line. The new study found that stopping breastfeeding before 6 months was linked to faster weight gain, a higher body mass index at 12 months and three times the risk of being overweight compared with exclusive breastfeeding.

“Other data has shown quite nicely that if you have an elevated (BMI) early on in life, it sets you up for childhood and then adolescent obesity later on in life,” said Lars Bode, director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence at the University of California San Diego.

As to why breastfeeding could be superior to pumping, researchers say the mechanism behind this is still unclear.

Perhaps something happens to breast milk components when it is refrigerated, frozen or thawed. Perhaps the act of suckling allows babies to better control the amount they’re consuming. (Study data did not test breast milk nor measure the amount consumed.) Nevertheless, researchers say the study reinforces benefits of breast milk, and they’re sending a message to policymakers about parental leave and support for breastfeeding.