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Teenage Moms Require Formula Boost

By Judy McBride
February 4, 1997

Teenage mothers don't meet the nutritional needs of their infants through breast feeding alone and rely on formula to supplement.

That's what researchers with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found when they compared quantity and quality of breast milk and breast-feeding behavior of 11 teen mothers with 11 adult mothers during the first six months after delivery.

Nutritionally speaking, the teens' breast milk was about equivalent to the adults' breast milk in calories, sugar (lactose), fat, protein and major minerals. But the teen moms only produced about half to two-thirds as much breast milk as the older moms.

Also, the teens did not nurse as long or as often as the adult moms. It's not known whether this behavior is the cause or the result of teens' lower milk production. But the end result was that teen moms fed their babies more formula to supplement the lack of breast milk.

Education and support aimed at increasing teens' daily nursing duration might improve production and reduce the need for formula, researchers say.

Scientific contact: Kathleen J. Motil, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX (713) 798-7180; e-mail: