Studies have shown that overweight and obese mothers are significantly more likely to quit breast-feeding their infants sooner than do healthy-weight mothers. An important reason why is the weaker biological response that heavier women have to their babies suckling, according to a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"We found that overweight and obese women have a lower prolactin response to suckling," says Kathleen Rasmussen, professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell and the lead researcher of the study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics (Vol. 113, No. 5, May 2004). Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the mammary glands to produce milk soon after birth.
"This lower prolactin response to suckling would be expected to compromise the ability of overweight and obese women to produce milk and, over time, lead to a significantly shorter period of breast-feeding," she adds.
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