It has been documented that growth patterns of breast-fed infants
differ from those of formula-fed infants, upon whom most reference data are
based (WHITEHEAD and PAUL, 1981). The slower growth velocity of breast-fed
infants after the first 2-3 months has been called 'growth faltering'
by some, but it might just as easily be claimed that the growth pattern of
formula-fed infants represents 'excessive' growth. The problem is not
just a semantic issue, however, as evaluation of the health status of individual
infants as well as groups of children requires an appropriate standard.
Historically, we have relied on growth measures as a reflection of nutritional
adequacy, but most would agree that bigger is not necessarily better. What is
needed, therefore, are alternative indices of functional outcomes to judge
whether a particular pattern of growth is optimal in a given environment.
The major objective of the DARLING study was to assess growth and
nutrient intake of breast-fed and formula-fed infants during the first 18 months
of life, and to include several functional indices, such as morbidity and
activity levels, which are then examined in relation to intake and growth
patterns. This paper presents an overview of the results pertaining to the
breast-fed cohort during the first 15 months. A more detailed description of
methods and results will be published