A follow-up study of children previously included in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II expands the evidence on the long-term effects of infant nutrition.

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The FDA wanted to better understand how consumers use products such as infant formula, breast pumps, fortified foods and dietary supplements.

The Infant Feeding Practices Study II (IFPS II) and its Year Six Follow-Up (Y6FU) were conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with other federal agencies.

IFPS II surveyed mothers in the third trimester of their pregnancies, collecting monthly data throughout the first year of their babies’ lives. In 2012, when the children from IFPS II were 6 years old, the mothers were contacted again to participate in the follow-up study.

The study took place because the FDA wanted to better understand how consumers use products such as infant formula, breast pumps, fortified foods and dietary supplements.

From the information gathered in IFPS II and Y6FU, the FDA would, therefore, be able to better inform consumer education programs and develop relevant food safety messages for mothers and infants.

The original study recorded details on foods fed to infants (including breast milk and infant formula) and contributing factors to feeding practices, such as breastfeeding, mothers’ hospital experiences, postpartum depression, mothers’ employment status, child care arrangements, infant sleeping arrangements, food allergies and mothers’ diets.

The follow-up also gathered data on children’s weight, height, physical and oral health, behavioral and developmental outcomes, food allergies, dietary practice, eating behaviors, level of physical activity, screen time and sleep patterns.

In addition, data on the mothers’ physical activity, weight and height, depression, pregnancy, breastfeeding history, work status and maternal feeding style were recorded in the follow-up, along with details of the home environment.

From Y6FU, the researchers found that the longer a mother breastfeeds and holds off on introducing non-breast milk foods and drinks, the lower the child’s chances will be of having ear, throat and sinus infections at 6 years of age.

The children who were breastfed for longer also consumed more water, fruit and vegetables – and less fruit juice and sugary drinks – at 6 years of age, compared with children who were not breastfed for as long.

Another key finding from Y6FU was that children who drank sugar-sweetened drinks during the first year of life were twice as likely to drink sugary drinks at 6 years of age than children who did not have these drinks in their first year.

Also, children who ate fruit and vegetables infrequently during the first year of life were found to be more likely to continue eating these foods infrequently at age 6.

The authors say that the follow-up proves the importance of establishing healthy eating behaviors early in life as these may predict later-life eating behaviors. They publish their results in Pediatrics, a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a recent feature, Medical News Today investigated to what extent women may feel stigmatized if they are unable to breastfeed.