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Objective: To determine the effect of caesarean section on breast milk transfer (BMT) to the normal term infant over the first week of life.
Method: A sample of 88 healthy nursing mothers who had a normal vaginal delivery, and 97 mothers who had a caesarean section were recruited from a teaching hospital. Mothers and midwives were instructed to weigh the infants before and after each feed throughout the study period using calibrated portable electronic scales.
Results: The volume of milk transferred to infants born by caesarean section was significantly less than that transferred to infants born by normal vaginal delivery on days 2 to 5 (p < 0.05), but by day 6 there was no difference between the two groups (p = 0.08). The difference could not be explained by any of the maternal and infant variables measured. Birth weight was regained by day 6 in 40% of infants born vaginally compared with 20% in those born by caesarean section.
Conclusion: There is a lag in the profile of the daily volume of breast milk transferred to infants delivered by caesarean section compared with those born by normal vaginal delivery. This study also challenges the widely followed schedules of milk volumes considered to be suitable for the term infant, which appear to be excessive, at least for the first four to five days post partum.