Infant Feeding and School Attainment in Five Cohorts from Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Bernardo L. Horta, Abet Bas, Santosh K. Bhargava, Caroline H D Fall, Alan Feranil, Julia de Kadt, Reynaldo Martorell, Linda M. Richter, Aryeh D. Stein, Cesar G. Victora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background:Performance in intelligence tests tends to be higher among individuals breastfed as infants, but little is known about the association between breastfeeding and achieved schooling. We assessed the association of infant feeding with school achievement in five cohorts from low- and middle-income countries. Unlike high-income country settings where most previous studies come from, breastfeeding is not positively associated with socioeconomic position in our cohorts, thus reducing the likelihood of a spurious positive association.Methodology and Principal Findings:Participants included 10,082 young adults from five birth cohorts (Brazil, India, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa). The exposures variables were whether the subject was ever breastfed, total duration of breastfeeding, and age at introduction of complementary foods. We adjusted the estimates for age at follow up, sex, maternal age, smoking during pregnancy, birthweight and socioeconomic position at birth. The key outcome was the highest grade achieved at school. In unadjusted analyses, the association between ever breastfeeding and schooling was positive in Brazil, inverse in the Philippines, and null in South Africa; in adjusted analyses, these associations were attenuated. In Brazil, schooling was highest among individuals breastfed for 3-12 months whereas in the Philippines duration of breastfeeding was inversely associated with schooling; and null associations were observed in South Africa and Guatemala. These associations were attenuated in adjusted models. Late introduction of solid foods was associated with lower schooling achievement in Brazil and South Africa.Conclusion:Measures of breastfeeding are not consistently related to schooling achievement in contemporary cohorts of young adults in lower and middle-income countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere71548
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 20 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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