Breastfeeding and overweight in european preschoolers: The toybox study

ToyBox-study group

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The benefits of breastfeeding (BF) include risk reduction of later overweight and obesity. We aimed to analyse the association between breastfeeding practices and overweight/obesity among preschool children participating in the ToyBox study. Data from children in the six countries, participating in the ToyBox-study (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland, and Spain) 7554 children/families and their age is 3.5–5.5 years, 51.9% were boys collected cross-sectionally in 2012. The questionnaires included parents’ self-reported data on their weight, height, socio-demographic status, and infant feeding practices. Measurements of preschool children’s weight and height were done by trained researchers using standard protocols and equipment. The ever breastfeeding rate in the total sample was 85.0% (n = 5777). Only 6.3% (n = 428) of the children from the general sample were exclusively breastfed (EBF) for the duration of the first six months. EBF for four to six months was significantly (p < 0.001) less likely among mothers with formal education < 12 years (adjusted Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.61; 95% Confidence interval (CI) 0.44–0.85), smoking throughout pregnancy (adjusted OR = 0.39; 95% CI 0.24–0.62), overweight before pregnancy (adjusted OR = 0.67; 95%CI 0.47–0.95) and ≤25 years old. The median duration of any breastfeeding was five months. The prevalence of exclusive formula feeding during the first five months in the general sample was about 12% (n = 830). The prevalence of overweight and obesity at preschool age was 8.0% (n = 542) and 2.8% (n = 190), respectively. The study did not identify any significant association between breastfeeding practices and obesity in childhood when adjusted for relevant confounding factors (p > 0.05). It is likely that sociodemographic and lifestyle factors associated with breastfeeding practices may have an impact on childhood obesity. The identified lower than desirable rates and duration of breastfeeding practices should prompt enhanced efforts for effective promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding across Europe, and in particular in regions with low BF rates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2880
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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