Let me starting with my own little introduction before I add the press release outlining the results of the research into breastfeeding and whats normal. Breastfeeding is close to my heart. Firstly, because I was unable to breastfeed my first child and secondly, because I had to work really hard to establish breastfeeding with my second child and overcome a variety of problems. So I am really pleased that this research has been done. To read about my personal experience breastfeeding, click here:
I would love to hear your thoughts on this research and your experiences of breastfeeding. Login in to Mumsnet Berkshire and add your thoughts to the thread. http://local.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_berkshire/2103442-Your-thoughts-experiences-with-breastfeeding-whats-normal-Medela-Research You never know, BumpsPR may even be in touch to learn more about you to help this campaign to reassure breastfeeding mums that there really is a lot of different normal.
Every breastfeeding mother will, at some stage, question if she is doing everything ok. Common questions such as, how often do I need to feed my baby or, how do I know if my baby is getting enough milk, will certainly play on their minds. Breastfeeding mothers may also find they compare themselves, wondering why a friend’s baby doesn’t feed as frequently during the night for example.
These types of questions will be asked by mothers during their breastfeeding experience and may cause anxiety or concern for some. Now, thanks to new study 1,2 from leading lactation researcher Dr Jacqueline Kent our understanding of breastfeeding is far clearer. Kent’s work has outlined the boundaries for what can be considered ‘normal’ breastfeeding and in doing so has answered these common queries. This is music to the ears of many mothers’ who find themselves questioning their personal breastfeeding experience and asking if it is normal?
Dr Kent’s findings were presented for the first time at Medela’s world leading breastfeeding symposium in Madrid this April and have since been shared far and wide around the world. Her work confirms that in fact there is no breastfeeding norm, no specific pattern that infants will, or indeed need to adopt, and certainly no set of rules that benchmark the right way to breastfeed.
The new research explains that every breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby is unique and that it will adapt and change throughout the breastfeeding period. The differences may appear extreme, but are natural and not necessarily an indication of insufficient milk supply or other problems.
Kent’s findings highlighted varying breastfeeding patterns between infants, but also showed changes in each baby’s individual experience, sometimes changing monthly. Between one and six months of lactation breastfed infants take fewer, faster, larger feeds, but their total daily milk intake is constant. The significant variability in frequency and volume intake of the healthy, exclusively breastfed infant aged 1 to 6 months is as follows:
- 4-13 – the number of breastfeeding sessions per day
- 12-67 minutes – the duration of a breastfeeding session
- 54-234 ml – volume of milk consumed in a breastfeeding session
- 478-1356 ml – the volume of milk consumed in a 24 hour period
All of the infants who were monitored as part of the study were considered to be growing normally according to the WHO growth charts. At every age there is a wide range in the number of breastfeeds in a day, but on average the frequency decreases between one and six months, after which it stabilizes. Similarly, there is a wide range in the duration of each breastfeeding session at every age, but on average the duration decreases between one and six months.
This knowledge will undoubtedly provide much-needed evidence to give health professionals confidence in various feeding situations and to give mothers self-assurance in their role. Better knowledge of the variability and expected changes in breastfeeding patterns will also improve mothers’ confidence about their milk supply.
The breastfeeding community must take from this study the understanding that changes in an infant’s breastfeeding behaviours are completely normal, as are differences between babies.
Lack of milk is often cited as one of the reasons mothers give up breastfeeding; the concern that their baby is not getting milk is naturally a worry. Mothers may think that because their baby is feeding more often it is a sign they are not getting enough each feed, but thanks to Kent we have learnt that this is not necessarily the case.
Using Kent’s new work to further educate both mothers and health professionals on the expected breastfeeding journey can potentially irradiate breastfeeding myths, thus making it a truly ground-breaking study in the field of lactation
- Kent,J.C. et al. Volume and frequency of breastfeeds and fat content of breastmilk throughout the day. Pediatrics 117, e387-e395 (2006).
- Kent,J.C. et al. Longitudinal changes in breastfeeding patterns from 1 to 6 months of lactation. Breastfeeding Medicine 8, 401-407 (2013).
About Dr Jacqueline Kent:
Kent started her academic career with a Bachelor of Science at UWA. In 1986 she was appointed as a research assistant at UWA in the Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group. She completed her PhD in 1999 on the calcium in milk and is now working in the group as a Research Assistant Professor.
As part of the Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group, Jacqueline researches the biochemistry and physiology of lactation and breastfeeding in babies. The aim of the group is to understand exactly how the process of lactation works, in order to provide an evidence base to improve treatment when medical difficulties arise in breastfeeding mothers, and to encourage more mothers to breastfeed.
Jacqueline has published 36 papers in refereed journals, 7 review papers, and has been invited to present papers to breastfeeding counsellors, midwives and lactation consultants at local, national and international meetings. She is also mother of two breastfed daughters.