Early infant feeding effect on growth and body composition during the first 6 years and neurodevelopment at age 72 months

Pediatr Res. 2021 Jul;90(1):140-147. doi: 10.1038/s41390-020-01157-z. Epub 2020 Sep 22.


Background: This study longitudinally characterized the developmental status, growth, and body composition of children who were fed human milk (breastfed, BF), cow's milk-based (MF), or soy protein-based (SF) infant formula from 3 to 12 months.

Methods: Standardized anthropometrics and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry were used to characterize growth and body composition at 3, 6, 9, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, and 72 months (NCT00616395). Preschool Language Scale-3, Children's Memory Scale Index (CMS), and Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence were administered at age 72 months. Mixed-effects models adjusting for gestational age, birth weight, child race and sex, parental education, and maternal IQ were performed.

Results: Body Mass index (BMI) was significantly lower between 24 and 72 months in BF children compared to SF children. At 3 and 6 months, BF infants had significantly higher fat mass (FM) than SF infants, whereas BF children had significantly lower FM at 36 and 48 months than SF children. Delayed Recognition Index of the CMS was higher for SF than for MF participants (p = 0.009). There was no other significant difference in developmental outcomes between groups.

Conclusions: In conclusion, BF, MF, and SF support adequate growth and development up to age 6 years.

Impact: Although soy protein-based infant formula is reported to support normal infant growth and development compared to cow's milk-based formula and human milk, there are limited data on the effect of these feeding methods in school-aged children. This study suggests a significant difference in body composition, specifically BMI, after 24 months between infant feeding methods during the first year of life and in early childhood; however, all diets provide adequate nutrients to maintain normal development up to 72 months.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition*
  • Bottle Feeding*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Growth*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00616395