DP12165 Infant Feeding and Cohort Health: Evidence from the London Foundling Hospital

Author(s): Vellore Arthi, Eric Schneider
Publication Date: July 2017
Keyword(s): Anthropometric growth, Breastfeeding, Early-life health, Mortality
JEL(s): I14, I15, J13, N33
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12165

What was the relationship between breastfeeding and cohort health in the past? We examine this question using a rich new source of longitudinal data on nearly 1,000 children from London's Foundling Hospital (1892-1919). Specifically, we test the association between the feeding regime in infancy and subsequent health, as manifested in mortality risk and anthropometric growth at later points in childhood and adolescence. We find that breastfeeding was positively associated with both survival and weight-for-age in infancy, with scarring dominating culling on net. However, infant-weight gradients in catch-up growth ensured that by mid childhood, these initial feeding-related health differentials had disappeared.