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Nutritional composition of human milk for full-term infants

Richard J Schanler, MD
Section Editor
Steven A Abrams, MD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Human milk is recommended as the exclusive nutrient source for feeding term infants for the first six months of life and should be continued with the addition of solid foods after six months of age [1]. Breastfeeding for all infants is strongly supported by both governmental and medical professional organizations because of its acknowledged benefits [1-3].

The composition of human milk is both complex, containing multiple nutrients, and remarkable for its variability. As an example, the concentration of some nutrients may differ between women and according to duration of lactation or time of day, whereas the concentration of other nutrients is relatively constant [4]. The composition of human milk is ideally suited to the full-term infant. The ability to vary the content permits nutrient composition to be adapted to meet the ongoing needs of the infant. In addition, the lack of monotony in the diet may potentially stimulate sensory development and permit better acceptance of new flavors and foods [5]. (See "Physiology of lactation".)

The individual components of human milk and the ways in which they contribute to meet the nutritional needs of full-term infants will be discussed here. Other aspects of breastfeeding and infant nutrition are discussed in separate topic reviews:

(See "Initiation of breastfeeding".)

(See "Breastfeeding: Parental education and support".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 07, 2017.
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