Public Health Nutrition

Hot Topic – Nutrition for infants up to pre-school children Epidemiology

Relationship between breast-feeding and adiposity in infants and pre-school children

Bamini Gopinatha1, Indhu Subramaniana1, Victoria M Flooda2, Louise A Baura3a4, Natalie Pfunda1, George Burlutskya1 and Paul Mitchella1 c1

a1 Centre for Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology and Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, Hawkesbury Road, Westmead, New South Wales 2145, Australia

a2 Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

a3 University of Sydney Clinical School, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

a4 Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Objectives We aimed to establish associations of duration of breast-feeding with mean BMI and waist circumference, as well as the likelihood of being overweight/obese, during early childhood.

Design Cross-sectional, population-based study. Height, weight and waist circumference were measured and BMI calculated. Interviewer-administered questionnaire determined whether the child was ever breast-fed and the duration of breast-feeding.

Setting Sydney, Australia.

Subjects Infants and pre-school children (n 2092) aged 1–6 years were examined in the Sydney Paediatric Eye Disease Study during 2007–2009.

Results Of the children aged 1–6 years, 1270 had been breast-fed compared with 822 who were never breast-fed. After multivariable adjustment, 1–6-year-old children who were ever breast-fed compared with those who were not had significantly lower BMI, 16·7 (se 0·1) kg/m2 v. 17·1 (se 0·2) kg/m2 (P = 0·01). Decreasing BMI was associated with increasing duration of breast-feeding (P trend = 0·002). After multivariable adjustment, each month increase in breast-feeding was associated with an average BMI decrease of 0·04 kg/m2 (P = 0·002) and 0·03 kg/m2 (P = 0·03) among children aged 1–2 years and 3–4 years, respectively. In 1–2-year-old children, each month increase in breast-feeding duration was associated with a 0·06 cm decrease in waist circumference (P = 0·04). Significant associations were not observed among 5–6-year-old children. Children who were ever breast-fed v. those never breast-fed were less likely to be overweight/obese (multivariable-adjusted OR = 0·54; 95 % CI 0·36, 0·83).

Conclusions We demonstrated a modest influence of breast-feeding on children's BMI during early childhood, particularly among those aged less than 5 years.

(Received June 27 2011)

(Accepted December 08 2011)

(Online publication February 28 2012)


c1 Corresponding author: Email