Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

How much energy does the breast fed infant consume and expend?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 11 July 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:75

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  1. A Lucas,
  2. G Ewing,
  3. S B Roberts,
  4. W A Coward


    Energy intake in breast fed infants is uncertain. The doubly labelled water method was used to measure, simultaneously and non-invasively, energy expenditure, energy intake, milk volume intake, energy deposition, and the energy content of breast milk in 12 "free living" breast fed babies at 5 and 11 weeks of age. The validity of this new approach was assessed in a parallel study in 12 formula fed infants. The babies who were exclusively breast fed expended 1.28 and 1.68 MJ/day at five and 11 weeks and had intakes of 1.81 and 2.22 MJ/day; these intakes were associated with normal growth but were well below those recommended previously. At five and 11 weeks the calculated energy content of breast milk was 0.24 and 0.25 MJ/100 ml, which is substantially lower than that commonly reported in milk obtained unphysiologically by expression of the breast. These data cast doubt on the widely used published standards for infant feeding.