Are breastfed infants less likely to become obese children than formula-fed infants?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
There is no consensus in the literature on this question. We encourage you to read the study summaries below or the studies themselves if you have access.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong. For medical questions, don't rely on the information here. Consult a medical professional.
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YES ANSWERS
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NO ANSWERS
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NO DATA ON ANSWER


Chart summary of 3 studies examining this question

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Literature Reviews
Although we recommend you consider all of the studies below, we believe the following studies are literature reviews, which survey and evaluate many studies on this question:

SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 3
Sorted by publication year
1
Breastfeeding and risk of overweight in childhood and beyond: a systematic review with emphasis on sibling-pair and intervention studies
"BackgroundBreastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of subsequent overweight or obesity, but it is uncertain whether this is a causal relation because most studies have not adequately reduced risk of bias due to confounding.ObjectivesThe aim of this review was to examine whether 1) ever compared with never consuming human milk and 2) different durations of human milk consumption among infants fed human milk are related to later risk of overweight or obesity, with emphasis on sibling-pair and intervention studies.MethodsThe 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, together with the Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review team, conducted a systematic review of articles relevant to healthy full-term infants in countries with a high or very high level of human development. We searched PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, and CINAHL; dual-screened the results using predetermined criteria; extracted data from and assessed the risk of bias for each included study; qualitatively synthesized the evidence; developed conclusion statements; and graded the strength of the evidence.ResultsThe review included 42 articles, including 6 cohorts with sibling-pair analyses and 1 randomized controlled trial of a breastfeeding promotion intervention. Moderate evidence suggested that ever, compared with never, consuming human milk is associated with a lower risk of overweight and obesity at ages 2 y and older, particularly if the duration of human milk consumption is >6 mo. However, residual confounding cannot be ruled out. Evidence was insufficient to determine the relation between the duration of any human milk consumption, among infants fed human milk, and overweight and/or obesity at age 2 y and older.ConclusionsFurther research, using strong study designs, is needed to disentangle the complex relation between infant feeding practices and the risk of subsequent overweight or obesity, as well as the biological and behavioral mechanisms if the relation is causal."
AUTHOR
Kathryn G Dewey
PUBLISHED
2021 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Literature Review
High Quality Source
Couldn't Identify
Couldn't Identify
2
A Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Breastfeeding and Early Childhood Obesity
"ProblemSeveral studies have indicated a protective effect of breastfeeding on reducing the risk of childhood obesity, however, this remains controversial. The aim of this meta-analysis is to clarify the association between breastfeeding and the risk of preschoolers' obesity.Eligibility criteriaProspective cohort studies published prior to December 1, 2019 were systematically searched in PubMed, EMBASE, the Web of Science and the Cochrane Library databases. Meta-analysis was performed using Stata 15.1.SampleTwenty-six publications involving 332,297 participants were eligible for inclusion.ResultsThe pooled odds ratio (OR) of the risk of obesity in ever-breastfed preschoolers was 0.83 (95%CI [0.73,0.94]) compared with their never-breastfed counterparts. Random-effects dose-response model revealed a negative correlation between the duration of breastfeeding and risk of obesity (regression coefficient = −0.032, p = .001). Categorical analysis confirmed this dose-response association (1 day to <3 months of breastfeeding: OR = 1.07, 95%CI [0.94,1.21]; 3 months to <6 months: OR = 0.96, 95%CI [0.60,1.54]; ≥6 months: OR = 0.67, 95%CI [0.58,0.77]). One month of breastfeeding was associated with a 4.0% decrease in risk of obesity (OR = 0.96/month of breastfeeding, 95% CI [0.95, 0.97]). Under the reference of never breastfeeding, the summary OR of exclusive breastfeeding was 0.53 (95%CI [0.45,0.63]).ConclusionsBreastfeeding is inversely associated with a risk of early obesity in children aged two to six years. Moreover, there is a dose-response effect between duration of breastfeeding and reduced risk of early childhood obesity.ImplicationsClinical nurses' guidance and advice that prolong the duration of breastfeeding and promote exclusive breastfeeding are needed to prevent the development of later childhood obesity."
AUTHOR
JiaQiao
PUBLISHED
2020 Journal of Pediatric Nursing
Literature Review
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
3
Relationship Between Exclusive Breastfeeding and Lower Risk of Childhood Obesity: A Narrative Review of Published Evidence
"Background:The pattern of infant feeding during the first 1000-day period—from conception to the second birthday—has a significant influence on the child’s growth trajectory. The relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and lower risk of childhood obesity has elicited much scientific interest, given the fact that this form of malnutrition is becoming a global epidemic.Aim:This narrative review aims to examine the evidence in the literature linking exclusive breastfeeding with reduction in obesity in children.Literature search:Using appropriate search terms, PubMed database was searched for relevant articles that met the review objective.Results:Evidence for the protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding against childhood obesity have been provided by studies which explored 5 physiologic mechanisms and those that established the causality between breastfeeding and lower risk of obesity. The few studies that disputed this relationship highlighted the influence of confounding factors. A new insight on molecular mechanisms, however, points to a direct and indirect effect of human milk oligosaccharides on the prevention of overweight and obesity.Conclusions:The preponderance of current evidence strongly suggests that exclusivity in breastfeeding can prevent the development of obesity in children."
AUTHOR
Relationship Between Exclusive Breastfeeding and Lower Risk of Childhood Obesity: A Narrative Review of Published Evidence
PUBLISHED
2017 Clinical Medicine Insights: Pediatrics
Literature Review
Yes
Yes