Still wondering whether to breastfeed? You may already know that, besides strengthening the mother-child bond, breastfeeding helps mothers ward off breast cancer, sleep better and lose weight. Moreover, breast milk offers babies balanced nutrition in a form that's easier to digest than formula and releases a potent cocktail of antibodies that boost immunity, so babies get sick less often.

Now, research suggests that breastfeeding's benefits may reach beyond infancy. A recent study that tracked 9,000 children, ages 0-6, says that breastfed babies are much less likely to develop childhood obesity — a 43 percent lower risk if breastfed for 6 months, 72 percent if nursed for over a year (British Medical Journal, 1999, vol. 319). An earlier study examined scholastic data from 1,000 children from ages 0­18; it suggests that the longer kids had nursed, the better their reading and math test scores (Pediatrics, 1998, vol. 101).

For more information on the benefits of breastfeeding, visit www.lalecheleague.org and www.nursingmothers.org.