Objective: To assess the energy and nutrient intakes of women who are breast-feeding in relation to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for energy and nutrients during lactation.
Design: Survey using a interviewer-administered questionnaire and a 24 dietary recall.
Subjects: The subjects were 183 women breast-feeding at 3 months postpartum. All were living in low-income communities in Ontario, Canada, that were participating in the longitudinal prevention initiative, Better Beginnings, Better Futures.
Statistical analyses: Mann-Whitney U test to compare energy and nutrient intakes of women with incomes above and below the Statistics Canada poverty line.
Results: Median intake of energy (2,148 kcal) was below the RDA of 2,700 kcal. Compared with the RDAs, intakes of calcium (928 vs 1,200 mg), folate (222 vs 280 microns), iron (13 vs 15 mg), thiamin (1.4 vs 1.6 mg), vitamin A (846 vs 1,300 retinol equivalents), and zinc (10 vs 19 mg) were below recommended values for women who are lactating. Although household income for 70% of the women was below the poverty line, differences in energy and nutrient intakes according to income group were not statistically significant.
Applications: Lactating women are at high risk of energy and nutrient inadequacies. Programs to increase breast-feeding rates, particularly among low-income communities, must include strategies to ensure adequate diets during lactation.