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

Colin D Steer, Kate Northstone, Pauline M Emmett, David Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

17 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1096-103
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Animals
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cattle
  • Child Development
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Records
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Overweight
  • Pediatric Obesity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Gain

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