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Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 May;73(5):959-67.

Breast-feeding is associated with improved growth in length, but not weight, in rural Senegalese toddlers.

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  • 1Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Nutrition Unit and Infectious Diseases Research Unit, Montpellier, France.



Prolonged breast-feeding is frequently associated with malnutrition in less-developed countries, even after adjustment for socioeconomic confounders. However, in rural Senegal, breast-feeding is prolonged when the child is stunted.


We aimed to test whether the lower height-for-age of children weaned late is explained by their height before weaning or whether prolonged breast-feeding is associated with impaired growth.


A cohort of 443 Senegalese children recruited from dispensaries at 2 mo of age were visited in their homes at 6-mo intervals when they were approximately 1.5 to 3 y of age. Weight, length, arm circumference, and triceps skinfold thickness were measured. Six-month increments were analyzed in relation to breast-feeding (breast-fed compared with weaned children or breast-feeding duration), season, and maternal housing with use of multiple linear regression.


The mean duration of breast-feeding was 24.1 mo (quartiles 1 and 3: 21.9 and 26.4). Height-for-age at the age of 3 y was negatively associated with age at weaning (P < 0.01), but this association disappeared after adjustment for height-for-age in infancy. Length increments were significantly greater in both the second and third years of life in children breast-fed for longer durations (P < 0.05) and tended to be greater in breast-fed than in weaned children in the second year of life (P = 0.05). In the third year of life, breast-fed children had greater length increments than did weaned children in the subgroup with poor housing (P for interaction < 0.05). Growth in weight did not differ significantly according to breast-feeding.


Prolonged breast-feeding improved linear growth, and the negative relation between height-for-age and duration of breast-feeding was due to reverse causality.

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