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Pediatr Res. 2002 Dec;52(6):863-7.

Size at birth and early childhood growth in relation to maternal smoking, parity and infant breast-feeding: longitudinal birth cohort study and analysis.

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Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, UK.


There is remarkably wide variation in rates of infancy growth, however, its regulation is not well understood. We examined the relationship between maternal smoking, parity, and breast- or bottle-feeding to size at birth and childhood growth between 0 and 5 y in a large representative birth cohort. A total of 1,335 normal infants had weight, length/height, and head circumference measured at birth and on up to 10 occasions to 5 y old. Multilevel modeling (MLwiN) was used to analyze longitudinal growth data. Infants of maternal smokers were symmetrically small at birth (p < 0.0005) compared with infants of nonsmokers, however, showed complete catch-up growth over the first 12 mo. In contrast, infants of primiparous pregnancies were thin at birth (p < 0.0005), showed dramatic catch-up growth, and were heavier and taller than infants of nonprimiparous pregnancies from 12 mo onwards. Breast-fed infants were similar in size at birth than bottle-fed infants, but grew more slowly during infancy. Among infants who showed catch-up growth, males caught up more rapidly than females (p = 0.002). In conclusion, early postnatal growth rates are strongly influenced by a drive to compensate for antenatal restraint or enhancement of fetal growth by maternal-uterine factors. The mechanisms that signal catch-up or catch-down growth are unknown but may involve programming of appetite. The importance of nutrition on early childhood growth is emphasized by the marked difference in growth rates between breast- and bottle-fed infants. The sequence of fetal growth restraint and postnatal catch-up growth may predispose to obesity risk in this contemporary population.

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