Objective: To monitor the birthweight of children and the breast feeding practices of their mothers in one municipal area of besieged Sarajevo (Dobrinja) during the war.
Design: A sample of babies born in Dobrinja in the period 1 April 1992 to 1 April 1994 were monitored.
Setting: Data were collected at the paediatric clinic, Dobrinja, Sarajevo.
Subjects: The sample included 70 of the babies born in Dobrinja during the survey period who attended the paediatric clinic.
Interventions: Babies were weighed and medically examined immediately after birth. Data on breast feeding practices of all children were gathered by interviewing the mothers.
Results: Ten out of 70 babies (14.3%) were low birth weight ( < 2500 grams). Half of the low birth weight babies had doubled their weight by three months of age. None of the low birth weight babies suffered from severe infections (only sporadic cases of enterocolitis) or psychomotor disorders in the first year of life. A total of 61 babies were breast fed until approximately one year of age, 17 children continued to breast feed after one year of age.
Conclusions: Despite the adverse influence of the war on living conditions and the stress experienced by pregnant women and babies, levels of perinatal mortality and severe child morbidity were not uncommonly high in Dobrinja. A relatively high percentage of babies born during the war were of low birth weight but most achieved catch-up growth during the first year of life. The findings suggest that babies were adequately protected. This is probably due in part to the promotion of breast feeding and the distribution of supplementary food commodities to mothers and children initiated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other humanitarian organisations.