Infant growth trajectories, in terms of size, tempo and velocity, may programme lifelong obesity risk. Timing of breastfeeding cessation and weaning are both implicated in rapid infant growth; we examined the association of both simultaneously with a range of growth parameters.DESIGN:
Longitudinal population-based twin birth cohort.SUBJECTS:
The Gemini cohort provided data on 4680 UK infants with a median of 10 (interquartile range = 8-15) weight measurements between birth and a median of 6.5 months. Age at breastfeeding cessation and weaning were reported by parents at mean age 8.2 months (s.d. = 2.2, range = 4-20). Growth trajectories were modelled using SuperImposition by Translation And Rotation (SITAR) to generate three descriptors of individual growth relative to the average trajectory: size (grams), tempo (weeks, indicating the timing of the peak growth rate) and velocity (% difference from average, reflecting mean growth rate). Complex-samples general linear models adjusting for family clustering and confounders examined associations between infant feeding and SITAR parameters.RESULTS:
Longer breastfeeding (>4 months vs never) was independently associated with lower growth velocity by 6.8% (s.e. = 1.3%) and delayed growth tempo by 1.0 (s.e. = 0.2 weeks), but not with smaller size. Later weaning (≥6 months vs <4 months) was independently associated with lower growth velocity by 4.9% (s.e. = 1.1%) and smaller size by 102 g (s.e. = 25 g).CONCLUSIONS:
Infants breastfed for longer grew slower for longer after birth (later peak growth rate) but were no different in size, while infants weaned later grew slower overall and were smaller but the timing of peak growth did not differ. Slower trajectories with a delayed peak in growth may have beneficial implications for programming later obesity risk. Replication in cohorts with longer follow-up, alternative confounding structures or randomised controlled trials are required to confirm the long-term effects and directionality, and to rule out residual confounding.