According to new research, children who are breastfed for at least six months are significantly less likely to become obese:
The researchers offer two potential mechanisms to explain this connection: one nutritional, the other behavioral. The first suggests that the composition of human breast milk (compared to infant formula) protects against obesity. For example, they note, "it could be that bioactive compounds such as leptin or ghrelin which have a role in satiety and the negation of hunger occur naturally in human breast milk and are absent in infant formula." The behavioral hypothesis suggests that breastfeeding mothers "may be more responsive to children’s cues indicating satiety." In other words, breast-fed children are more likely to be guided from a very early age to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. In contrast, babies encouraged to finish a bottle’s worth of formula may be learning a very different behavior—one with harmful long-term consequences.