Breastfeeding Duration and its Relation to Weight Gain, Eating Behaviours and Positive Maternal Feeding Practices in Infancy
Research examining the relationship between breastfeeding and infant weight has generated conflicting results. Few studies account for significant covariates and many suffer methodological problems such as retrospective self-report. The current study aimed to investigate relationships between breastfeeding duration, infant weight and eating and positive maternal mealtime behaviours, whilst overcoming many of the limitations of previous research. Eighty-one women on low-risk maternity units gave informed consent and were visited at home at 1-week, 1-, 6- and 12-months postpartum. Infants included 45 males and 36 females (mean birth-weight 3.52 kg [SD 0.39]). Mothers and infants were weighed and measured and feeding information was recorded at each visit. Infant weight was converted to a standard deviation score (SDS ), accounting for age and sex. Mothers reported infant eating behaviours at 12-months using the Children’s Eating Behaviour Questionnaire and were observed feeding their infants solid food at home at 6- and 12-months. Partial correlations (covariates: maternal age, education, BMI, smoking during pregnancy, household income, infant birth weight SDS and age introduced to solid foods) revealed negative associations between breastfeeding duration and 1- to 6- and 1- to 12-month weight gain, and 6- and 12-month weight. Breastfeeding duration was also associated with a slower rate of infant eating and greater observed maternal vocalisations, appropriateness and sensitivity. Results support a dose-response relationship between breastfeeding and infant weight and suggest that breastfeeding may encourage the development of obesity-protective eating behaviours through learning to attend to internal hunger and satiety signals. Future research should investigate whether relationships between slowness in eating and weight extend to satiety responsiveness after infancy.