Original Communication

Do early infant feeding patterns relate to breast-feeding continuation and weight gain? Data from a longitudinal cohort study

  • European Journal of Clinical Nutrition volume 58, pages 12901296 (2004)
  • doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601964
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Objectives: To describe the first-week feeding patterns for breast- vs bottle-fed babies, and their association with sustained breast-feeding and infant weight gain at 6 weeks.

Design: A longitudinal cohort study.

Setting: Feeding diaries were completed by mothers in an urban UK community shortly after birth; follow-up weight and feeding data were collected at routine health checks.

Subjects: Mothers of 923 full-term infants born during the recruiting period agreed to join the study. In all, 502 usable diaries were returned from 54% of the cohort.

Results: Breast-fed infants were fed more frequently (2.71 h between feeds) than bottle-fed infants (3.25 h between feeds) and mixed-fed infants (3.14 h between feeds) (P<0.001) in the first week of life, while duration of feeds was similar. Only exclusive breast-feeding in the first week (P<0.001) and maternal education (P=0.004) were related to continued breast-feeding at 6 weeks. Greater first-week feeding frequency (as measured by feed-to-feed interval, h) was associated with higher weight gain at 6 weeks for breast-feeders, but no analysed factors were associated with higher weight gain for bottle-feeders.

Conclusions: This large-scale study of first-week feeding patterns sheds light on the important and complicated issues of breast-feeding continuation and infant weight gain, with implications for the feeding advice given to mothers. Supplementary bottle feeds were clearly associated with discontinued breast-feeding at 6 weeks. Over that period, higher weight gain was associated with more frequent feeding for breast-fed infants only.

Sponsorship: Henry Smith Charity, SPARKS, Child Growth Foundation.

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The project support was provided by the Henry Smith Charity, SPARKS, and the Child Growth Foundation.

Author information

Author notes

    • C M Wright

    Current address: University of Glasgow, UK.

    • K N Parkinson

    Current address: Centre for Health Services Research, University of Newcastle, UK.


  1. Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Durham, UK

    • R E Casiday
    •  & C Panter-Brick
  2. Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    • C M Wright
    •  & K N Parkinson


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Guarantor: RE Casiday.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R E Casiday.