Objective: The most common reason given for discontinuation of exclusive breastfeeding is perceived insufficient milk supply. Breastfed infants show more variation in feeding frequency than bottle-fed infants, and this may lead to a mother lacking confidence in her milk supply if the frequency of breastfeeding sessions does not match expectations based on bottle feeding. We aimed to assist clinicians in supporting breastfeeding mothers by providing evidence-based information on expected changes in breastfeeding patterns and milk intake during exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.
Subjects and methods: Mothers and their healthy infants who were exclusively breastfeeding (total 24-hour milk intake within the normal range) were studied during two to five 24-hour periods between 1 and 6 months of lactation.
Results: Between 1 and 3 months of lactation, the frequency of breastfeeding sessions decreased, whereas both the median and maximum breastmilk intakes during each breastfeeding session increased. These parameters remained constant between 3 and 6 months. The duration of each breastfeeding session decreased steadily from 1 to 6 months, but the total 24-hour milk intake remained constant.
Conclusions: Breastfeeding becomes more efficient between 1 and 3 months of lactation, although milk intake remains constant. Clinicians can give mothers confidence that these changes in breastfeeding behavior do not indicate insufficient milk supply, but may be a result of the increase in the stomach capacity of the infants and are an expected outcome of a healthy, normal breastfeeding relationship.