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).

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