Growth and development

Infant health research

These studies explore how infant feeding and relationship building impact growth and development in infancy and beyond.

A longitudinal study of estrogen-responsive tissues and hormone concentrations in infants fed soy formula

This study in Philadelphia compared estrogen-responsive postnatal development in infants exclusively fed soy formula, cow-milk formula, and breast milk. Researchers found that relative to girls fed cow-milk formula, those fed soy formula demonstrated tissue- and organ-level developmental trajectories consistent with response to exogenous estrogen exposure. They suggested that further studies are needed to further evaluate the effects of soy on child development.

Adgent, M, & Umbach, D, et al (2018). A longitudinal study of estrogen-responsive tissues and hormone concentrations in infants fed soy formula. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,

Holding infants can affect their genes: Epigenetic correlates of neonatal contact in humans

This study found that children who had had less physical contact and were more distressed as infants had a molecular profile in their cells that was underdeveloped for their age. The effect was detectable four years later, suggesting that touch in infancy has profound effects. The research builds on similar work in rodents, highlighting the importance of tactile contact for biobehavioral outcomes via the modification of DNA methylation (DNAm). Our standards help units to give parents every opportunity to touch and care for their babies, supporting their development and future relationships.

Moore, SR, et al (2017), Epigenetic correlates of neonatal contact in humans, Development and Psychopathology,

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Effect of breastfeeding promotion interventions on child growth

This review aimed to update a previous systematic review and meta-analysis about the effect of breastfeeding promotion interventions on child growth. The authors found that breastfeeding promotion interventions were not associated with significant changes in weight or length, but led to a modest, albeit significant, reduction in body mass index/weight-for-height z scores.

E.R.J Giugliani et al (2015). Effect of breastfeeding promotion interventions on child growth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, Special Issue: Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. Volume 104, Issue Supplement S467, pages 20-29.

Effect of kangaroo care on physical growth and breastfeeding

This study of 110 neonates found that the use of kangaroo care improved the infants’ physical growth and increased breastfeeding rates.

Effect of Kangaroo Mother Care on physical growth, breastfeeding and its acceptability. Geeta Gathwala, Bir Singh, and Jagjit Singh, Trop Doct. 2010; 40(4): p. 199-202.

Breastfeeding and increased height

This study observed that found that whilst breastfeeding didn’t appear to have an impact on the height of children aged 12-15 years, when these children were followed up at ages 20-25 those who had been breastfed were significantly taller. This is particularly significant given the association between increased adult height and improved life expectancy.

Holmes VA, Cardwell C, McKinley MC, et al (2009) Association between breastfeeding and anthropometry and CVD risk factor status in adolescence and young adulthood: the Young Hearts Project, Northern Ireland. Public Health Nutrition; 7:1-8

Impact of early weighing policy on neonatal hypernatraemic dehydration and breastfeeding

This study found that introducing an early weighing policy (72-96 hours) resulted in an earlier recognition of difficulties, a lower percentage weight loss, smaller increase in sodium and higher breastfeeding rate at discharge and at eight weeks.

Iyer NP et al. (2008) Impact of an early weighing policy on neonatal hypernatraemic dehydration and breast feeding. Arch. Dis. Child; 93: 297-299

Postnatal factors associated with faltering growth

This study of 11,900 infants found that, at all ages, ineffective sucking was associated with faltering growth. Before eight weeks infant illness also had an impact on weight gain, and after eight weeks breastfeeding duration and difficulties had an impact.

David Pontin, Pauline Emmett, Colin Steer, Alan Emond. Postnatal factors associated with failure to thrive in term infants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Archives of Diseases in Childhood 2007; 92(2): p. 115-119

Related research and further reading

Research on Brain and Cognitive Development

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The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year

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