Diet and disadvantage: observations on infant feeding from an inner city

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Abstract

Background:

There are few detailed nutritional studies analysing dietary intakes and weaning practices of inner city infants aged 0-12 months. Pasteurized cow's milk (PCM) is not recommended as a main drink until after 1 year of age, although early usage is still common. Premature introduction of pasteurized cow's milk is associated with increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia.

Methods:

We therefore prospectively examined the dietary effect of early introduction of pasteurized cow's milk on the nutritional intake of 100 infants (mean age at recruitment 7.8 months), whose mothers had already elected to introduce cow's milk before the recommended age of 12 months in a deprived inner city area. In addition, a retrospective questionnaire on feeding practices and food choices was administered and information on parental education and employment was collected, together with a 3-day dietary diary of weighed intakes at recruitment.

Results:

The results indicate that weaning practices are handed down from family and friends and are intuitive rather than informed. Over 80% of the infants had intakes of iron, zinc and vitamin D below the reference nutrient intake (RNI) and a further 41% had low vitamin C intakes. Prior to introduction of PCM, there was also misuse of infant formula. Twenty per cent added an extra scoop of powder to the feeds, 10% added milk powder to the bottle before addition of water and 30% used microwave ovens to heat the infant bottle.

Conclusion:

Feeding practices in a deprived inner city area differed substantially from guidelines and infants were at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies as well as poor feeding practices.

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