Feeding Practices and Weight Gain in the First Six Months of Life

  • KC Ejianya
  • HA Cole
  • OF Njokanma
  • G Okpuno


The renewed effort to encourage the practice of breast feeding has awakened interest in the study of the relationship between different modes of infant feeding and growth patterns. This relationship was studied in a cohort of 196 children in the first six months of life. The babies were classified as exclusively breastfed (receiving no other form of food or drink except the mother's breast milk), mostly breastfed (receiving <3 sessions of supplementary feeds per day) and mostly formula fed (receiving > 3 sessions of supplementary feeds per day). In the first three months of life, the mean growth velocity was higher for exclusively breastfed babies (32.8 ± 7.3 g/day) than for their counterparts receiving supplementary feeds (31.3 + 6.6 g/day and 31.0 ± 6.0 g/day, respectively). The mean cumulative weight was also higher in exclusively breastfed babies (6399 ± 797g vs 6367 ± 724g and 6363 ± 696g) despite having the lowest mean birth weight. During the following three months, there was marked deceleration of growth rates involving all three groups with the exclusively breastfed babies the most affected: 49 percent deceleration for exclusively breastfed babies, 43 percent for mostly breastfed babies and 40 percent for mostly formula fed babies. However, exclusively breastfed babiesretained the higher cumulative weight achieved earlier. None of the observed differences was statistically significant. It is concluded that body weight changes between three and six months of life, do not show a convincing advantage for the introduction of supplementary feeds. Extraneous considerations of convenience, economy and immunology tend to lend support to exclusive breastfeeding during this period.

Keywords: Exclusive breast feeding, Formula feeding, Growth velocity.

Nigerian Journal of Paediatrics 2003; 30:18-22.


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eISSN: 0302-4660