Breastfed babies may gain less weight
Despite growing research in favor of breastfeeding, the authors of a linked commentary say the new findings may put too much pressure on new mothers.

"Pediatricians should deliver their expert advice with empathy, being mindful of the gap that always exists for parents between doing what is ideal for their children and doing what is possible," according to the editorial.

Co-author Dr. Jeffrey Wright, a pediatrician from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, told Reuters Health there could be anatomical or economic reasons why mothers cannot breastfeed their children.

Some mothers have to return to work, fathers may want to help with feeding and the parents may want to know how much milk their baby is getting. Wright said all of these reasons may keep mothers from breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed for six months, and continue breastfeeding as foods are introduced until at least 12 months.

"There were millions of babies raised on formula well before the obesity epidemic started," said Wright. "Each family should weigh the benefits they see against the hassles they take to get there, and the father should be involved with that discussion."

As with any research, the new studies also have limitations — including that neither can prove breastfeeding directly protects kids from gaining too much weight.

But researchers agreed that employers need to do what they can to promote breastfeeding, such as having onsite child care and allowing new parents to work part-time.

"Breastfeeding is really the best feeding for the babies, and needs to be the first choice," said Li.

If that's not possible, she said it's important to pay attention to the signals a baby sends out to prevent overfeeding with a bottle, such as keeping their mouth shut or not wanting to suckle.