Breastfeeding duration and exclusivity associated with infants’ health and growth: data from a prospective cohort study in Bavaria, Germany


Barbara Rebhan, Department of Environmental Health, Bavarian Health and Food Safety Agency, Veterinaerstrasse 2, D-85764 Oberschleissheim, Germany.
Tel: +49 89-31560-171 |
Fax: +49 89-31560-835 |


Aim: To investigate the relationship between breastfeeding and infant health and to describe growth in the first 9 months.

Methods: Mothers delivering a baby in April 2005 were recruited throughout Bavaria, Germany, for a prospective birth cohort study. These mothers reported breastfeeding data, health and growth data of 1901 infants assessed by a physician in questionnaires on day 2–6, and in months 2, 4, 6 and 9. Subjects were healthy term infants with a birth weight ≥2500 g. We compared 475 infants breastfed exclusively for ≥6 months (group A), 870 infants breastfed fully/exclusively ≥4 months, but not exclusively ≥6 months (group B) and 619 infants not breastfed/breastfed <4 months (group C).

Results: In multivariate analysis ≥6 months of exclusive breastfeeding reduced significantly the risk for ≥1 episode of gastrointestinal infection(s) during months 1–9 compared to no/<4 months breastfeeding (adjusted odds ratio [OR]: 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.44–0.82). The application of the World Health Organization (WHO) – child growth standards showed lower weight-for-length z-scores in first days of life in group C versus groups A and B, whereas in months 6/7 group C showed the highest scores.

Conclusion: Differences in child growth depending on breastfeeding duration should be investigated further. Concerning health outcomes our findings support the recommendation for ≥6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.