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Can J Public Health. 2010 Jan-Feb;101(1):36-9.

Can exclusive breastfeeding reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity in some regions of Canada?

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Memorial University, School of Pharmacy, 300 Prince Philip Drive, St. Johns, NL A1B 3V6.



The prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada is a major concern. Studies report a small but significant inverse relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and childhood obesity. The study objectives were to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity in a preschool population living in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and to examine the relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and preschool obesity.


This was a cross-sectional analysis of 1,026 children born in 2001 who participated in the Pre Kindergarten Health Fairs in 2005. Heights and weights were collected and body mass index (BMI) calculated. The BMI-for-age references used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States were used to classify the weight status of children. Infant feeding information was collected through a survey. The relationship between breastfeeding and childhood obesity was examined using logistic regression models controlling for child's age and gender, mother's education and smoking status, and whether the baby was preterm or full-term.


In 2005, 65%, 19% and 16% of preschool children were normal, overweight and obese, respectively. 74% of women initiated breastfeeding and 43% exclusively breastfed to 3 months. Exclusive breastfeeding to 3 months was protective of preschool obesity (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 0.65, 95% CI 0.45-0.96).


Obesity is prevalent in preschool children in NL. Exclusive breastfeeding appeared to be a protective factor for obesity in preschoolers. Given the known benefits of breastfeeding and the adverse health consequences of obesity, efforts should be made to increase exclusive breastfeeding which may help to prevent the development of obesity in young children.

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