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Infant Feeding and Weight Gain: Separating Breast Milk From Breastfeeding and Formula From Food

OBJECTIVES:

Studies addressing breastfeeding and obesity rarely document the method of breast milk feeding, type of supplementation, or feeding in hospital. We investigated these practices in the CHILD birth cohort.

METHODS:

Feeding was reported by mothers and documented from hospital records. Weight and BMI z scores (BMIzs) were measured at 12 months. Analyses controlled for maternal BMI and other confounders.

RESULTS:

Among 2553 mother-infant dyads, 97% initiated breastfeeding, and the median breastfeeding duration was 11.0 months. Most infants (74%) received solids before 6 months. Among “exclusively breastfed” infants, 55% received some expressed breast milk, and 27% briefly received formula in hospital. Compared with exclusive direct breastfeeding at 3 months, all other feeding styles were associated with higher BMIzs: adjusted β: +.12 (95% confidence interval [CI]: .01 to .23) for some expressed milk, +.28 (95% CI: .16 to .39) for partial breastfeeding, and +.45 (95% CI: .30 to .59) for exclusive formula feeding. Brief formula supplementation in hospital did not alter these associations so long as exclusive breastfeeding was established and sustained for at least 3 months. Formula supplementation by 6 months was associated with higher BMIzs (adjusted β: +.25; 95% CI: .13 to .38), whereas supplementation with solid foods was not. Results were similar for weight gain velocity.

CONCLUSIONS:

Breastfeeding is inversely associated with weight gain velocity and BMI. These associations are dose dependent, partially diminished when breast milk is fed from a bottle, and substantially weakened by formula supplementation after the neonatal period.

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