Lactational performance of adolescent mothers shows preliminary differences from that of adult women

K J Motil, B Kertz, M Thotathuchery
Journal of Adolescent Health 1997, 20 (6): 442-9

PURPOSE: The purposes of this study were to characterize milk production, milk composition, and the lactational behavior of adolescent mothers, and to compare their lactational performance with that of adult females.

METHODS: Twenty-two lactating mothers, 11 adolescents and 11 adults, were studied at 6-week intervals between 6 and 24 weeks postpartum. Milk production was determined by the test-weighing procedure. Milk nutrient composition was determined by standard chemical analyses. Frequency and duration of nursing and the use of supplemental formula and complementary foods were recorded.

RESULTS: The amount of milk adolescents produced at 6, 12, 18, and 24 weeks postpartum ranged from 37-54% less (P < .05) than that of the adults and resulted in a 45% weaning rate at 18 weeks postpartum in the younger group. Milk nutrient concentrations were not significantly different between groups, with the exception of significantly higher sodium concentrations during early lactation in the adolescents' milk. Lactational behavior differed significantly between the adolescent and adult groups; however, with the exception of the lower frequency of daytime nursing and the tendency toward the early introduction of supplemental formula in the adolescent group, these behavioral differences were the result of the racial and ethnic differences between the two groups. The differences in lactational behavior did not contribute to the differences in milk production between the adolescents and adult mothers.

CONCLUSIONS: This preliminary study suggests that milk production was reduced in adolescent mothers compared with adult females. Although behavioral strategies that increase the frequency of daytime nursing and reduce the frequency of supplemental feedings may enhance the milk production of adolescent mothers, other biological factors may account for their poorer lactational performance.

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