Exclusive breastfeeding duration during the first 6 months of life is positively associated with length-for-age among infants 6-12 months old, in Mangochi district, Malawi

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To examine the association between breastfeeding pattern and growth in the first year of life.


A cross-sectional survey was carried out on 349 mothers with infants < 12 months in a rural and a semi-urban community in Mangochi district, Malawi. Data on socio-demographic characteristics, infant weight, length and feeding patterns since birth were collected. Multivariate linear regression was performed to test the association between feeding pattern and infant anthropometric status.


Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) until 6 months was practised by 13.1% semi-urban and 1.3% rural mothers. No infant was exclusively breastfed beyond 6 months. Breastfeeding was continued among all infants who had stopped EBF. Among infants 6-12 months of age, duration of EBF during the first 6 months was positively associated with length-for-age Z-score (LAZ) (regression coefficient = 0.19, 95% confidence interval: 0.06, 0.31) in a model adjusted for socio-demographic factors. Urban residence and female gender yielded positive associations in the same model. The model explained 27% of the variation in LAZ. Among infants < 6 months, duration of EBF was not significantly associated with LAZ, but being female and urban residence yielded positive associations. Breastfeeding patterns were not associated with weight-for-age Z-score (WAZ) or weight-for-height Z-score (WLZ) either in the 0-6-month or in the 6-12-month group. Birth outside a health facility was negatively associated with WAZ and WLZ in the older group.


EBF in the first 6 months of life was associated with increased linear growth, but not weight gain, in later infancy. Promotion of EBF could reduce the prevalence of chronic child undernutrition in the study area.


European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015) 69, 96-101; published online 6 August 2014

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