Do early feeding habits impact later dietary patterns?

Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

We know that the food habits a child is exposed to can have a lifelong impact on his or her diet. A study examines whether that impact includes the feeding habits from infancy.

Infant feeding practices expose a child to dietary patterns that are thought to shape how that child sees foods and develops preferences. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at the links between infant feeding practices and dietary patterns in school-aged children.1

The investigators did a secondary analysis of data from a diverse birth cohort along with 10 years of follow-up. The children were born between 2003 and 2007 in the greater Detroit, Michigan area and completed a food screener at age 10 years. The screener was used to determine dietary patterns.

A total of 471 children were included in the report. The investigators identified 3 dietary patterns: processed/energy-dense food (35%), variety plus high intake (41%), and healthy (24%). When compared to children who were formula-fed at 1 month, children who were breastfed had 0.41 times lower odds of the processed/energy-dense food dietary pattern versus the healthy dietary pattern (95% CI 0.14 to 1.25) and 0.53 times lower odds of the variety plus high intake dietary pattern (95% CI 0.17 to 1.61). Similar, but more imprecise results were seen for breastfeeding at 6 months. The link between age at solid food introduction and dietary patterns was nonsignificant and each 1-month increase in age at solid food introduction was linked to 0.81 times lower odds of the processed/energy-dense food dietary pattern relative to the healthy dietary pattern (95% CI 0.64 to 1.02).

The investigators concluded that there is not a significant link between the feeding practices of early life and dietary patterns at school age. However, they did state that large-scale studies with extensive follow-up that ranges past the early childhood could provide more concrete evidence and those studies should be able to adjust for a multitude of confounders that are tied to breastfeeding.

Reference

1. Sitarik A, Kerver J, Havstad S. Infant Feeding Practices and Subsequent Dietary Patterns of School-Aged Children in a US Birth Cohort. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021;121(6):1064-1079. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2020.08.083