Study looks into infant feeding methods and weight gain
The research suggests that breastmilk from the bottle may not have as many benefits for a baby's weight as feeding directly from the breast.
The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, are based on more than 2500 mother-infant pairs.
The study found on average that babies who were still exclusively breastfed at six months had the healthiest weight by the age of 12 months.
In comparison, babies who were no longer exclusively breastfed at six months had a three-times greater risk of being overweight by their first birthday.
However, when the researchers looked at mothers' feeding methods, they found that babies given expressed breastmilk tended to weigh a little more than those who fed from the breast.
They said the findings support the notion that the method of feeding matters, not just what is being fed to babies. But they also stressed that breastmilk, in any form, is better than formula.
Lead researcher and assistant professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba in Canada Meghan Azad explained the possible reasons why feeding at the breast might promote the healthiest rate of weight gain.
She said breastmilk contains a range of ‘interesting enzymes and hormones’ and it's possible that their activity is depleted when pumped milk is refrigerated.
Meghan added that it's thought that babies learn to ‘self-regulate’ food intake when breastfeeding and in contrast, when parents bottle-feed, they often ‘take charge’, encouraging their baby to finish the bottle.
Access the full study here.