Breastfeeding promotes better appetite control in toddlers

Brown, A. and Lee, M., 2012. Breastfeeding during the first year promotes satiety responsiveness in children aged 18–24 months. Pediatric obesity, 7(5), pp.382-390.



Why do the research?

Breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight as toddlers and over children. This might be for a number of reasons including differences in energy intake, appetite regulation during feeding and experiencing a range of tastes through breastmilk. However little research has looked at the eating behaviours of toddlers who were breast or formula fed as babies




Who took part?

Two hundred and ninety eight mothers with a baby who was aged 6 – 12 months at stage one and 18 – 24 months at stage two.


What did they do?

In stage one they reported how long they breastfed for and how long this was exclusive breastfeeding.

In stage two they described their toddlers eating behavior using a questionnaire called the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Questions were used specifically around how well they could control their appetite e.g. not overeat.


What did we find?

Toddlers who were breastfed as babies had better appetite control compared to those who had not been breastfed. However, at least six weeks of breastfeeding was needed to see a difference compared to babies who were formula fed at birth.

When exclusivity was looked at, babies who had been exclusively breastfed for six months had better appetite control compared to those who had been partially breastfed up to six months. However, mixed feeding was linked to better appetite control compared to formula milk from birth.


What does this mean?

Breastfeeding might help babies develop good appetite skills, and the longer the breastfeeding and its exclusivity, the better.

This makes sense as breastfeeding is very baby-led. You can’t see how much a baby is getting and need to trust your baby to decide when to start and stop a feed. This means they are used to deciding when they are hungry or full depending on their own appetite, rather than when someone else says so. When a bottle is used, there is a temptation to encourage a baby to finish it, or get hung up on measuring milk intake.

The importance of baby-led responsive feeding needs to be emphasized, as this is also possible when feeding with a bottle if the caregiver follows the baby’s cues of when he or she has had enough, rather than when the bottle is empty.


You can download a copy of the paper here: Breastfeeding during the first year promotes satiety responsiveness