Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has made it a favorite topic of his to attack First Lady Michelle Obama. However, his latest diatribe not only slams the President’s wife, making allusions to the “government teat” but also shows how utterly misinformed he is about the campaign to help women breastfeed their children.
From Media Matters:
Limbaugh: I didn’t comment on it, I should have at the time. Michelle Obama saying that there’s evidence that breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity. Folks, this is another one of these old wives tales. There’s a rich…shall I say body, rich body of scientific research that says that is a myth. That breast feeding prevents childhood obesity. It’s a myth. I mean are you surprised that Moochell would encourage more people to get on the teat? I’m not.
Limbaugh’s strange statements are part of a larger movement that Media Matters calls a “Right-wing media attack on Michelle Obama for fighting childhood obesity.”
Conservative media figures are attacking Michelle Obama over her efforts to encourage healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity, baselessly claiming that Americans “will be reported” or be “jail[ed]” for eating french fries.
Sound ridiculous? Well, so is claiming that there is a rich body of research saying breastfeeding doesn’t help prevent childhood obesity.
But how does breastfeeding prevent obesity, especially if after weaning, a child is filled with less than optimal nutrition? For one thing, a mother’s weight is a strong predictor of childhood obesity. And a breastfed infant has less body fat at one year than its formula – fed counterpart. Let’s look at some of the studies that were published most recently in medical journals, which address this question.
In Canada where childhood obesity is also a major concern, a study published in January 2010 in their Journal of Public Health, the relationship between breastfeeding and childhood obesity was examined. The authors found that exclusive breastfeeding appeared to be a protective factor in preschool children. More than a thousand children were part of the analysis. The mothers’ education and smoking were looked at, and whether or not the baby was term or pre-term, but not the family diet.
Another study, published this past July looking at the babies of women from different ethnic backgrounds who had pregestational diabetes, found that breastfeeding significantly decreased the likelihood of obesity in their offspring.. This study from the University of Toronto recommends encouraging women with diabetes to breastfeed, given the increased risk of obesity in their children.
Two studies come from the Journal of Pediatrics, in May and June. The May article says that if babies were exclusively breastfed for 6 months, it would save the US $13 billion a year in health care costs, preventing many health problems including childhood obesity, and recommends investing in strategies to increase the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding. The June article studied whether infants fed from bottles lacked the self-regulation of their intake compared to babies fed directly from the breast. This study concluded that, yes, babies bottle-fed in early infancy, are more likely to empty the bottle in late infancy than those fed directly from the breast, regardless of the type of milk. Why? Maybe because breastfeeding is more infant directed and bottle feeding more in the hands of the caregiver.
So, is it a good healthy diet with plenty of home cooking, and/or an active lifestyle and/or exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months that helps prevent childhood obesity? You be the judge.
Perhaps the radio host would be better off if he spent more time researching his claims and less trying to score political points off of the First Lady.