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    Breastfeeding: growth of exclusively breastfed infants.

    Huffman SL

    Mothers and Children. 1985 Nov-Dec; 5(1):5, 7.

    Currently standards from industrialized countries are used to assess the growth patterns of breastfed infants in developing countries. Infant growth faltering is interpreted as an indicator of insufficient lactational capacity on the mother's part. 2 recent articles suggest the need for a critical reappraisal of current growth standards and their use for evaluating the adequacy of infant feeding practices. The most commonly used standards to evaluate infant growth are derived from the US National Center for Health Statistics based on anthropometric data collected in the US population 3-month intervals up to the age of 3. During this period, infant feeding practices varied greatly. Many babies were bottle-fed and given supplemental feedings early in life. No large sample of exclusively breastfed infants has been studied from birth on, and thus a standard for breastfed infants is not available. A study of fully breastfed infants was done in England and suggests that there are differences in growth rates. Among a population of 48 exclusively breastfed boys and girls, for the 1st 3 to 4 months of life, growth of breastfed infants was greater than National Center for Health Statistics Standards, while after 4 months growth velocity decelerated more quickly than the standard. The growth of infants studied in Kenya, New Guinea and the Gambia appears to falter at 2-3 months of age using the NCHS standard. Findings suggest that current FAO/WHO recommended energy intakes may be excessive. Recent studies in the US support this assertion. The adequacy of the milk production for the infants in this US study done in Texas was illustrated by their growth rates. Length for age percentiles were higher than the NCHS standards throughout the study though at birth they did not differ significantly. 1 reason these breastfed infants were able to maintain growth despite less than recommended energy intakes is that the ratio of weight gain/100 calories of milk consumed was 10-30% higher among the breastfed infants compared to formula fed infants, suggesting a more efficient use of breastmilk than formula. There is a need for studies of exclusively breastfed infants with larger samples to determine what growth pattern should be considered the norm.
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