Project: Research on Breastfed Infants Growth
Award Year: 2001
Amount of award, fiscal 1998: $800,000.00 fiscal 2000: $124,997.00 fiscal 2001: $25,000.00
Institution: World Health Organization
Principal Investigator: Mercedes de Onis
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This work conducts research on optimal growth rates for breastfed infants. The clinicians in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) require appropriate infant growth charts to determine when, and if, breastfeeding should be supplemented with formula to support weight gain. Current infant growth charts are based predominately on formula-fed infants, and hence, may suggest faster weight gains than optimal and unnecessary formula supplements.

This project funds the U.S. longitudinal study, which will follow a sample of breastfed babies more than 2 years (22 data points for each baby). The U.S. sample is essential if U.S. physicians and health care workers are to accept and use The World Health Organization (WHO) infant growth charts. The project is of particular relevance to WIC, which promotes the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. Current growth charts are based on surveillance data comprised mainly from formula-fed babies who are thought to have higher, though not necessarily optimal or appropriate growth rates for comparison with breastfed infants. The higher growth rate standards may lead health care workers to interpret the slower growth of breast-fed infants at about 4 months as indicative of growth faltering and erroneously recommend supplementation with formula or termination of breastfeeding. This could reduce the health benefits to infants associated with breastfeeding. A grant for $800,000 was awarded to WHO in fiscal 1998 to fund a U.S. site at the University of California, Davis for their international study to develop growth charts for healthy breastfed babies. In fiscal 2000 the grant was amended to include a cross-sectional component to measure children ages 18-71 months for reliable estimates of growth through the end of the 5th year of life. In fiscal 2001 a grant of $25,000 was awarded. The work is expected to be completed by December, 2002.

Topic: Breastfeeding, Child Nutrition, Data Collection and Methodology
World Health Organization, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. WHO Child Growth Standards: Methods and Development, WHO Press, Geneva, Switzerland, 2006.