Socioeconomic Status, Infant Feeding Practices and Early Childhood Obesity
Benjamin Gibbs, Brigham Young University
Renata Forste, Brigham Young University
Children from low socioeconomic households are at greater risk of obesity. Breast feeding can protect against obesity, but disadvantaged infants are less likely to be breast fed relative to more advantaged children. How infant feeding patterns mediate the association between social class and obesity is unknown. Based on a nationally representative longitudinal survey (ECLS-B) of early childhood (N = 8,030), we find that infants fed only formula for the first six months were two times more likely to be obese at 24 months of age relative to infants fed only breast milk. The early introduction of solid foods (< 4 months) and putting the child to bed with a bottle each increased the likelihood of obesity by 40%. Infant feeding practices accounted for half of the negative relationship between low socioeconomic status and early childhood obesity. Other household, maternal, and child characteristics accounted for the remaining effect.