British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Breast-feeding and adherence to infant feeding guidelines do not influence bone mass at age 4 years

Nicholas C. Harveya1, Sian M. Robinsona1, Sarah R. Croziera1, Lynne D. Marriotta1, Catharine R. Galea1, Zoe A. Colea1, Hazel M. Inskipa1, Keith M. Godfreya1, Cyrus Coopera1 c1 and the Southampton Women's Survey Study Groupa1

a1 MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK


The impact of variations in current infant feeding practice on bone mineral accrual is not known. We examined the associations between duration of breast-feeding and compliance with infant dietary guidelines and later bone size and density at age 4 years. At total of 599 (318 boys) mother–child pairs were recruited from the Southampton Women's Survey. Duration of breast-feeding was recorded and infant diet was assessed at 6 and 12 months using FFQ. At 6 and 12 months the most important dietary pattern, defined by principal component analysis, was characterised by high consumption of vegetables, fruits and home-prepared foods. As this was consistent with infant feeding recommendations, it was denoted the ‘infant guidelines’ pattern. At age 4 years, children underwent assessment of whole-body bone size and density using a Hologic Discovery dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry instrument. Correlation methods were used to explore the relationships between infant dietary variables and bone mineral. There was no association between duration of breast-feeding in the first year of life and 4-year bone size or density. ‘Infant guidelines’ pattern scores at 6 and 12 months were also unrelated to bone mass at age 4 years. We observed wide variations in current infant feeding practice, but these variations were not associated with differences in childhood bone mass at age 4 years.

(Received September 04 2008)

(Revised February 05 2009)

(Accepted March 04 2009)

(Online publication April 02 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Cyrus Cooper, fax +44 23 8070 4021, email


† Southampton Women's Survey Study Group: David J. P. Barker, Catherine M. Law, Vanessa A. Cox, Elaine M. Dennison, Pat Taylor, Patricia J. Coakley and Julia Hammond.

Abbreviations: BMC, bone mineral content; BMD, bone mineral density; DXA, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; SWS, Southampton Women's Survey