Breastfeeding can help tackle obesity problem among children

We read with interest the article on obese children (Fat babies = Fat adults?; Feb 27).

Indeed, obesity is a growing concern in Singapore.

It is perplexing that while the article mentioned formula feeding as a contributing factor to the rising rates of obesity, no mention was made of the recommended way of feeding babies - breastfeeding.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued breastfeeding (together with feeding of complementary foods) for up to two years or more.

It also states that breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity, and protects against being overweight in childhood.

The composition of breast milk has optimum levels of protein; higher levels of protein (such as those found in infant formula) increases the risk of obesity in children.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued breastfeeding (together with feeding of complementary foods) for up to two years or more. It also states that breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity, and protects against being overweight in childhood.

In fact, cow's milk actually contains three times more protein than breast milk.

Research has also found that bottle-feeding increases the risk of obesity.

A study in 2010 published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that breastfed babies can control their intake of milk, but bottle-fed babies find it harder to do so.

This increases the risk of overfeeding, and being overweight later on in life.

The somewhat cultural practice of feeding children follow-on formula milk further compounds the problem.

The WHO asserts that follow-on milk is unnecessary. Follow-on formula may, in fact, be more harmful for children's health, with its higher sugar and protein levels.

Promoting and supporting breastfeeding in Singapore is a public health issue.

Increasing the rates of breastfeeding in Singapore will go a long way towards dampening the rising rates of obesity among our children.

We are happy that more people understand the significance in promoting breastfeeding, especially with more hospitals getting accredited under the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Let us support mothers and re-normalise breastfeeding in order to positively impact the health and wellness of our children.

Elaine Chow (Ms)
President
Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Breastfeeding can help tackle obesity problem among children'. Print Edition | Subscribe