Hopkins D, Steer CD, Northstone K, Emmett PM - 46986 N - Am J Clin Nutr 2015 ; in press.

Effects on childhood body habitus of feeding large volumes of cow or formula milk compared with breastfeeding in the latter part of infancy

Background: There is controversy over whether a lack of breastfeeding is related to obesity development.Objective: We examined the effects of feeding different types of milk in late infancy on childhood growth.

Design: A cohort of 1112 term, singleton children (born in 1992) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, United Kingdom, were studied prospectively. Food records collected at 8 mo of age were used to define the following 5 mutually exclusive feeding groups on the basis of the type and amount of milk consumed: breast milk (BM), <600 mL formula milk/d (FMlow), =600 mL formula milk/d (FMhigh), <600 mL cow milk/d (CMlow), and =600 mL cow milk/d (CMhigh). Weight, height, and BMI were measured at 14 time points from birth to 10 y of age, and SD scores (SDSs) were calculated. Dietary energy and macronutrient intakes were available at 7 time points.

Results: CMhigh children were heavier than were BM children from 8 mo to 10 y of age with weight differences (after adjustment for maternal education, smoking, and parity) =0.27 SDSs and an average of 0.48 SDSs. The maximum weight difference was at 18 mo of age (0.70 SDS; 95% CI: 0.41, 1.00 SDS; P = <0.0001). CMhigh children were taller at some ages (25-43 mo; P < 0.01) and had greater BMI SDSs from =8 mo of age (at 9 y of age; P = 0.001). FMhigh children were heavier and taller than were BM children from 8 to 37 mo of age. There were marked dietary differences between milk groups at 8 mo of age, some of which persisted to 18 mo of age. Adjustments for current energy and protein intakes did not attenuate the growth differences observed.

Conclusions: The feeding of high volumes of cow milk in late infancy is associated with faster weight and height gain than is BM feeding. The feeding of bottle-fed infants with high volumes of cow milk in late infancy may have a persisting effect on body habitus through childhood.