Background: The value of postinfancy breastfeeding for growth and nutritional status is debated. We have investigated this issue in a longitudinal study.
Methods: We prospectively followed up a cohort of 264 children in western Kenya for 6 months (mean age 14 months [range 9-18] at baseline) to investigate the nature of the association between breastfeeding and growth. Only 14 (5.3%) children had been weaned at baseline, and 173 (65.5%) were still breastfed at follow-up. For analysis, children were classified into three groups of breastfeeding duration as a proportion of the total follow-up period (0-49%, n=42; 50-99%, n=49; and 100%, n=173).
Findings: In general linear models multivariate analysis, children in the longest-duration breastfeeding group gained 3.4 cm (p=0.0001) and 370 g (p=0.005) more than those in the shortest duration group, and 0.6 cm (p=0.0015) and 230 g (p=0.038) more than children in the intermediate group. The strongest association between breastfeeding and linear growth was observed in households that had no latrine and daily water use of less than 10 L per person.
Interpretation: Our findings support WHO's recommendation to continue breastfeeding for at least 2 years, especially in settings with poor sanitation and inadequate water supply.
PIP: This prospective cohort study aimed to investigate growth in the second year of life in relation to continued breast-feeding in western Kenya. A total sample of 134 girls and 130 boys with the mean age of 14 months at enrollment was followed up for 6 months. Of the 264 children, only 14 (5.3%) had been weaned at baseline, and 173 (65.5%) were still breast-fed at follow-up. Children were classified into three groups of breast-feeding duration as a proportion of the total follow-up period (0-49%, n = 42; 50-99%, n = 49; 100%, n = 173). Analysis showed that children in the longest-duration group gained 3.4 cm (p = 0.0001) and 370 g (p = 0.0005) more than those in the shortest duration group, and 0.6 cm (p = 0.0015) and 230 g (p = 0.038) more than children in the intermediate group. In addition, the strongest association between breast-feeding and linear growth was observed in households that had no latrine and daily water use of less than 10 liters/person. In conclusion, the findings suggested that continued breastfeeding during the second year of life had a positive impact on a child's linear growth.