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CMAJ. May 15, 1989; 140(10): 1159–1164.
PMCID: PMC1269056

Incidence and duration of lactation and lactational performance among mothers of low-birth-weight and term infants.


The lactation experience of 55 mothers of 62 infants of low birth weight (2500 g or less) was prospectively compared with that of 55 mothers of 55 control infants (38 weeks' gestation or more, birth weight more than 2500 g) born at the same institution. The incidence rates of lactation at delivery were 73% for the control group and 58% for the low-birth-weight group; 11% of the infants of low birth weight fed breast milk were never put to the breast. The mean age at first suckling was 277.3 hours in the low-birth-weight group, compared with 3.3 hours in the control group (p less than 0.0005). At first suckling 81% of the low-birth-weight infants and 25% of the control infants sucked poorly or refused the breast (p less than 0.001). At discharge 65% of the breast-milk-fed control infants were exclusively breast-fed, compared with 3% of the low-birth-weight infants fed breast milk (p less than 0.001). The incidence rates of lactation over time were similar in the control and low-birth-weight groups (51% v. 44% at 1 month, 29% v. 13% at 3 months, 13% v. 4% at 6 months and 4% v. 2% at 12 months). The mean duration of lactation was 3.2 months for the control group and 2.5 months for the low-birth-weight group. In the long term 37% of the low-birth-weight infants fed breast milk failed to breast-feed, compared with 2% of the control infants, and only 31% were exclusively breast-fed, compared with 85% of the control infants (p less than 0.001). However, the degree of satisfaction with the lactation experience was similar in the two groups. We conclude that mothers of low-birth-weight infants have good potential for lactation.

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