Colostrum has important anti-infective properties. It may also somehow promote the development of the child's immunological system. Discarding colostrum, as practised in some cultures, could thus have adverse health consequences beyond the neonatal period. To test this hypothesis, the age at breast feeding start of 734 healthy newborns in urban Guinea-Bissau was ascertained. The children were then prospectively followed up to 3 years of age. Eighty nine deaths occurred during the study. The probability of death in the age interval 28 days to 3 years was about 20%. The child's age at breast feeding start had no statistical impact on postneonatal growth or survival. As a single measure, early breast feeding start is not likely to make much difference for the long term growth or survival of children living under material poverty conditions.
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