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

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.