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BACKGROUND: Controversial findings concerning associations of breast feeding with growth have been reported. This study examined whether the associations of breast feeding with early growth trajectories and body mass index to 16 years differed by sex or age. METHODS: In Hong Kong's 'Children of 1997' population-representative birth cohort, contemporaneously reported breast-feeding status in the first 3 months was classified as exclusive breast feeding (BF) (n = 470), mixed feeding (MF) (n = 2693), and formula feeding (FF) (n = 4204). Adjusted sex- and age-specific associations of breast feeding with infant growth (gains in weight-for-age z scores (WAZ), length/height-for-age z scores (LAZ), and body-mass-index-for-age z score (BAZ) based on the World Health Organization standards/references from birth to 36 months) were assessed using linear regression and mixed modelling, respectively. Adjusted sex-specific associations of breast feeding with average BAZ from 3 months to 16 years were assessed using generalized estimating equation. Potential confounders were maternal and infant characteristics, and household income. RESULTS: Among 7367 children, associations of breast feeding with infant growth did not vary by sex, but WAZ gains varied by age. Greater WAZ gains were observed in BF than FF infants from 0 to 3 months but in FF than BF infants from 3 to 9 months. Breast feeding was not associated with overall BAZ from 3 months to 16 years, with no differences by sex. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that breast feeding may only have short-term effects on growth. Further studies of the role of breast feeding in other metabolic diseases may be needed.

Original publication




Journal article


Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol

Publication Date





200 - 209


adiposity, breast feeding, children, infant growth, sex, Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Body Mass Index, Breast Feeding, Child, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Female, Hong Kong, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Sex Factors