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LLLI Center for Breastfeeding Information

Journal Abstract and Review of the Month for November 2005

"Fat and Energy Contents of Expressed Human Breast Milk in Prolonged Lactation"

Authors: Dror Mandel, Ronit Lubetsky, Shaul Dollberg, Shimon Barak, and Francis B. Mimouni

Pediatrics2005: 116(3):e432-e435


From the American Academy of Pediatrics to the World Health Organization to La Leche League International to each individual baby's health care provider, opinions about how long, why, and whether breastfeeding should continue past infancy are many and varied. While a great deal is known about the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding to the newborn infant, there are comparatively fewer studies exploring the qualities of breast milk produced in the later stages of lactation (defined here as longer than one year). This study attempts to bring science to bear on this lack of information.

Milk was collected by the mothers in mid-feedings twice a day at set times and tested for creamatocrit (CMT) level. Findings reveal that the fat and energy content of the breast milk of mothers who nurse for more than a year is significantly higher than that of the milk of mothers who have been nursing less than six months. Confounding factors might be maternal diet (which, while similar between the two groups of mothers, was not controlled for); maternal weight and BMI (higher in the short-term group, which may be explained by temporal proximity to the baby's birth); and maternal age (higher in the long-term group, which may indicate higher socioeconomic status with concomitant improved maternal nutrition). However, the researchers felt these variables were not so pronounced as to significantly alter the impact of the data.

The authors conclude with some questionable statements about cholesterol and fat in breast milk. While it is known that breast milk contains a higher quantity of cholesterol and saturated fat than a like volume of infant formula, for the newborn this may provide a protective effect on the infant's later ability to appropriately metabolize these dietary components. There is no evidence to state definitively that this level of fat and cholesterol has a deleterious effect on future cardiovascular health in the infant, nor is there positive proof that the protective qualities of breast milk can be sustained in the face of poor future nutrition. This is an area worthy of further study.

This paper is categorized by the following keywords:
Long-term benefits
Extended breastfeeding
Human milk--composition

An additional abstract of this article may be viewed at this link

The full text of this article is available (for a fee) at:

LLLI provides additional information on the benefits of extended breastfeeding. Go to these links for related articles and information from La Leche League International's publication for Leaders, LEAVEN: (myth #24)

In addition, there are numerous articles and mothering stories from La Leche League International's publication for mothers, NEW BEGINNINGS. Links to these may be found at the following location on LLLI's website:

Additional Research Information from LLLI's Center for Breastfeeding Information is available at this link:

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