The parental desire for their babies to grow rapidly into healthy and robust children has recently been tempered by the rise in the childhood obesity problem. With this in mind, it has been observed that babies who are breast fed tend to grow slower than babies who are fed formula. On the surface, this might not seem to be such a good thing, but the reality is it may be tied to the fact that breast fed babies are less likely to become overweight children later in life.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that slower growth rates, as measured by total body weight, observed in babies who are breast fed (as opposed to formula fed) are due to lower levels of protein in their mother’s milk. It is important to note, however, that the children attained, on average, the same height, leading to the conclusion that the increased weight was due to having more body fat.

The data was obtained through a multi-center trial whereby over 1000 infants were fed, for their first year of life, either breast milk or infant formula containing high or low levels of protein. The babies were then followed up after two years.

What the researchers discovered was that when they were fed the lower protein formula, the children had grown to the same height, but weighed less than the children fed the high protein formula. In fact, the growth of the low-protein group was more like that of breast fed children.

The authors went on to say that the results highlight a potential long-term benefit of breastfeeding on the health of the child, as well as greater insight into the impact of the nutritional makeup of infant formula, both of which may very well be significant factors in childhood obesity.

For new parents, whether or not to breastfeed their babies is an important decision, with pros and cons for both camps. However, according to the latest findings, there is still a great deal support for breastfeeding, and on many levels.

In terms of the health of your baby, the pros are overwhelming. According to most experts, breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. Because of its unique composition, breast milk is an ideal source of nutrition for infants, and studies have also shown that babies who are breastfed do better on a number of health related measures, including cognitive development.

As a new mother, whatever decision you make regarding the feeding of your baby, take the time to make an informed decision. Speak to you doctor and get more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Pregnancy Association.