Objective: This research sought to describe associations among parity, breastfeeding, and adult obesity in black and white women in the southeastern United States.
Methods: Cross-sectional data from 7,986 white women and 23,198 black women (age 40-79 years) living in the southeastern United States and enrolled in the Southern Community Cohort Study during 2002-2006 were used to examine self-reported body mass index (BMI) and weight change since age 21 in association with parity and breastfeeding. Multiple linear regression and logistic regression with adjustment for demographic and lifestyle factors were used.
Results: At all levels of parity and breastfeeding, black women had higher BMI and weight gain since age 21 than white women. Compared to nulliparity, five or more live births was associated with increased odds of obesity in white women (odds ratio [OR] = 1.37, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.08-1.74) and, to a lesser extent, in black women (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.07-1.38). In white women, breastfeeding for more than 12 months compared to none was associated with decreased odds of obesity (OR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.56-0.82), whereas in black women, no association between obesity and breastfeeding was seen.
Conclusions: The associations between childbearing factors and measures of adult obesity appear to be larger in white women compared to black women but relatively small overall. However, when considered as part of the constellation of factors that lead to obesity, even these small associations may be important in an overall obesity prevention strategy.