Breast milk or animal-product foods improve linear growth of Peruvian toddlers consuming marginal diets

Grace S. Marquis, Jean Pierre Habicht, Claudio F. Lanata, Robert E. Black, Kathleen M. Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Although breast-feeding is widely accepted as important for infant health, its benefits during the second year of life have been questioned. We analyzed data from 107 breast-fed and weaned Peruvian children living in a periurban community to determine whether breast milk contributed to improved linear growth between 12 and 15 me of age. Breast-feeding frequency was self- reported; intakes of complementary foods and animal products were estimated from a food-frequency survey. Multivariate-linear-regression analysis was used to predict the length of the children at 15 mo of age. Determinants of length included length and weight-for-length at 12 me of age (US National Center for Health Statistics standards), interval between 12- and 15-mo measurements, breast-feeding frequency, incidence of diarrhea, and intakes of complementary and animal-product foods. Complementary foods, animal-product foods, and breast milk all promoted toddlers' linear growth. In subjects with low intakes of animal-product foods, breast-feeding was positively associated (P < 0.05) with linear growth. There was a 0.5-cm/3 me difference in linear growth between weaned toddlers and children who consumed the average number of feedings of breast milk. Linear growth was also positively associated with intake of animal-product foods in children with low intakes of complementary foods. The negative association between diarrhea and linear growth did not occur in subjects with high complementary-food intakes. When the family's diet is low in quality, breast milk is an especially important source of energy, protein, and accompanying micronutrients in young children. Thus, continued breast-feeding after 1 y of age, in conjunction with feeding of complementary foods, should be encouraged in toddlers living in poor circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1102-1109
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Animal products
  • Breast milk
  • Breast-feeding
  • Complementary foods
  • Diarrhea
  • Energy
  • Linear growth
  • Peru
  • Stunting
  • Toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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