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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Oct;90(4):1070-4. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28021. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Health and development outcomes in 6.5-y-old children breastfed exclusively for 3 or 6 mo.

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Department of Pediatrics, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Canada.



Despite the current World Health Organization recommendation that infants be exclusively breastfed for 6 mo, this practice remains unusual in both developed and developing countries.


The objective was to compare health and development outcomes at age 6.5 y in children who were exclusively breastfed for 3 mo (EBF3) or for 6 mo (EBF6); in the EBF3 group, the children continued partial breastfeeding for > or =6 mo.


This was a prospective cohort study nested within a large, cluster-randomized trial of a breastfeeding promotion intervention in the Republic of Belarus. Outcomes compared at 6.5 y included anthropometric measurements, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, intelligence quotient, teachers' ratings of academic performance, parent- and teacher-rated behavior, atopic symptoms, allergen skin-prick tests, and dental caries. All statistical analyses were adjusted for cluster- and individual-level covariates and for clustering of outcomes within the clinics at which the children were examined.


The 2427 EBF3 and 524 EBF6 children who were followed up represented 84.7% and 89.4%, respectively, of those followed for the first year of life. The only significant differences observed between the 2 groups were in mean body mass index, triceps skinfold thickness, and hip circumference, all of which were higher in the EBF6 group.


We observed no demonstrable beneficial or adverse long-term effects on child health of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 mo. Higher adiposity measures in the EBF6 group probably reflect reverse causality rather than a causal effect of prolonged exclusive breastfeeding. Established benefits appear to be limited to the period of exclusive breastfeeding.

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