Infants given recipe milk as opposed to being breastfed are 25% bound to turned out to be large


Babies given formula milk instead of being breastfed are 25 percent more likely to become obese.

Almost one in six bottle-fed babies are obese by the time they reach primary school, an international study of more than 100,000 six to nine-year-olds found.

Children never given breast milk have 25 percent higher odds of obesity than those whose mothers exclusively breastfed them for at least six months.

Experts believe formula may cause babies to gain more weight and grow faster because it is developed from cows’ milk, which has higher levels of protein and may trigger the growth of fat cells.

Despite this, only around one percent of mothers in Britain breastfeed their child for at least six months without using a bottle, the latest figures show.

The study, led by the National Institute of Health in Portugal and promoted by the World Health Organisation, looked at breastfeeding rates for up to 22 countries, finding even nursing babies for some of the time may protect them from obesity. The UK was not included.

Children of mothers who breastfed them for at least six months, but used bottles as well, were 22 percent less likely to be obese than those never breastfed.

Dr. Joao Breda, a senior author of the study from the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, said: ‘We need to see more measures to encourage breastfeeding, like properly paid maternity leave.

‘We need less inappropriate marketing of formula milk, which may lead some mothers to believe it is as good for babies as breast milk.

‘And it would be an excellent idea if countries like the UK with low levels of exclusive breastfeeding tried to reach the European average so that more than 20 percent of women managed this.’


Breast milk contains antibodies passed on from the mother, which boost a baby’s immune system and help it fight infections and viruses.

There is also evidence that breastfed babies have higher IQs and are less at risk of obesity – because formula milk is higher in fat.

Breastfeeding is also deemed beneficial for the mother because it enables her to bond with the newborn.

It also enables her to lose weight, as nursing mothers burn up to 500 calories a day extra.

Researchers looked at primary school children from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative which includes 22 European countries.

The children’s mothers were asked if they had breastfed, for how long, and if they had done so exclusively without feeding their baby other liquids such as water.

The results, available for up to 16 countries and almost 30,000 children with full breastfeeding records, show those breastfed for less than six months were 12 percent less likely to be obese than those never breastfed.

Children breastfed exclusively for this period were five percent less likely to be obese.

Those children in the heaviest three percent of their age group, well above the expected weight for their height and age, were classed as obese.

Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of babies being overweight, which may be due to hormones, nutrients, and bugs in breast milk which change babies’ gut bacteria.

Breast milk is believed to ‘programme’ babies to burn fat more efficiently in later life instead of storing it and gaining weight.

Formula milk, in contrast, is thought to increase babies’ insulin levels compared to breast milk, which may cause them to grow more and bigger fat cells.

In Britain, health watchdog NICE recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for their first six months.


  • Knowsley, Merseyside (18.9%)
  • Halton, Cheshire (20.20%)
  • Sunderland (24.6%)
  • South Tyneside (26.2%)
  • Redcar and Cleveland (27.2%)
  • North East Lincolnshire (28%)
  • Wigan, Gtr Manchester (28.3%)
  • County Durham (29%)
  • Middlesbrough (29.8%)
  • Rotherham (30.4%)

Source: Public Health England. The figures come from the most recent data set, released in October 2018


  • Tower Hamlets, London (81.6%)
  • Lewisham, London (77.2%)
  • Kingston upon the Thames (76%)
  • Brighton and Hove (70.2%)
  • Reading (61.8%)
  • Wokingham, Berkshire (61.8%)
  • Oxfordshire (61%)
  • Luton, Bedfordshire (58.9%)
  • Leicester (58.4%)
  • Herefordshire (58.10%)

Source: Public Health England. The figures come from the most recent data set, released in October 2018

But the latest figures from the WHO, from 2010, show only one per cent of women in the UK were exclusively breastfeeding at six months.

The breastfeeding study, the largest of its kind, was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.

It did not look at the UK but, based on survey figures from UNICEF, last reported in 2010, 81 per cent of British women start breastfeeding, with only one per cent still solely breastfeeding after six months.

Breast milk may help babies get a taste for healthy food as it can contain traces of fruit and vegetables from their mother’s diet.

Formula milk contains sugars which may lead to obesity.

Almost one in 10 children are obese before they start school in the UK.

Dr Breda said: ‘Breastfeeding has a really strong protective effect. The evidence is there. The benefit is outstanding so we should be telling people.’

Kate Brintworth, head of maternity at the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘This work contributes to the already strong evidence base about the many benefits of breastfeeding for mother and her baby and reinforces the need to increase the resources that are put into supporting women to begin and maintain breastfeeding for at least the first six months of the baby’s life.’

Sue Ashmore, director of Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative, said: ‘Human milk – breast milk – is specifically designed for human babies.

‘Not only does it act as baby’s first vaccine, protecting against infections, but it also affects long-term health, including acting as the first defence against the epidemic of obesity.’

Area Totally or partially breastfed after 6 weeks Not at all breastfed after 6 weeks
Tower Hamlets 81.60% 14.20%
Lewisham 77.20% 21.60%
Kingston upon Thames 76.00% 20.30%
Brighton and Hove 70.20% 25.80%
Reading 61.80% 36.40%
Wokingham 61.80% 35.70%
Oxfordshire 61.00% 35.80%
Luton 58.90% 40.30%
Leicester 58.40% 37.90%
Herefordshire 58.10% 41.10%
Trafford 58.00% 40.40%
Buckinghamshire 55.50% 42.00%
Bedford 55.10% 43.00%
Bracknell Forest 53.30% 46.30%
West Berkshire 52.00% 44.90%
Sheffield 51.10% 48.30%
East Sussex 49.80% 46.20%
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly* 49.10% 46.20%
Central Bedfordshire 48.60% 48.30%
North Yorkshire 48.50% 50.10%
Coventry 48.30% 49.80%
Cheshire East 47.70% 50.70%
Leeds 47.70% 48.20%
Suffolk 47.60% 50.50%
Nottingham 47.30% 49.20%
Northamptonshire 47.20% 48.80%
Worcestershire 47.20% 52.80%
Isle of Wight 47.20% 49.60%
Newcastle upon Tyne 46.90% 53.00%
Stockport 46.80% 50.00%
Southend on Sea 46.10% 51.60%
Leicestershire 44.90% 51.90%
Peterborough 44.60% 51.00%
Derby 44.40% 55.30%
Warwickshire 44.20% 52.20%
Solihull 44.10% 55.90%
East Riding of Yorkshire 43.10% 56.80%
Manchester 41.60% 58.40%
Derbyshire 41.20% 57.00%
Plymouth 40.30% 59.00%
Bolton 39.40% 57.10%
Sandwell 39.00% 57.80%
Nottinghamshire 38.80% 56.20%
Oldham 38.40% 60.10%
Warrington 37.90% 61.10%
Bury 37.40% 59.40%
Northumberland 36.70% 62.30%
Lincolnshire 35.20% 59.90%
Liverpool 35.10% 60.90%
Hampshire 35.00% 65.00%
Wirral 33.20% 66.20%
Wakefield 33.20% 62.20%
Rochdale 32.80% 65.10%
Darlington 31.90% 64.10%
Sefton 31.70% 65.40%
Essex 31.70% 68.30%
Tameside 31.20% 67.70%
Wolverhampton 30.60% 69.40%
Rotherham 30.40% 65.80%
Middlesbrough 29.80% 69.30%
County Durham 29.00% 69.70%
Wigan 28.30% 70.60%
North East Lincolnshire 28.00% 70.40%
Redcar and Cleveland 27.20% 72.70%
South Tyneside 26.20% 71.10%
Sunderland 24.60% 74.20%
Halton 20.20% 75.60%
Knowsley 18.90% 77.40%


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