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No evidence for sex biases in milk macronutrients, energy, or breastfeeding frequency in a sample of filipino mothers


Correspondence to: Elizabeth A. Quinn; Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA. E-mail:


Maternal reproductive investment includes both the energetic costs of gestation and lactation. For most humans, the metabolic costs of lactation will exceed those of gestation. Mothers must balance reproductive investment in any single offspring against future reproductive potential. Among mammals broadly, mothers may differentially invest in offspring based on sex and maternal condition provided such differences investment influence future offspring reproductive success. For humans, there has been considerable debate if there are physiological differences in maternal investment by offspring sex. Two recent studies have suggested that milk composition differs by infant sex, with male infants receiving milk containing higher fat and energy; prior human studies have not reported sex-based differences in milk composition. This study investigates offspring sex-based differences in milk macronutrients, milk energy, and nursing frequency (per 24 h) in a sample of 103 Filipino mothers nursing infants less than 18 months of age. We found no differences in milk composition by infant sex. There were no significant differences in milk composition of mothers nursing first-born versus later-born sons or daughters or between high- and low-income mothers nursing daughters or sons. Nursing frequency also showed no significant differences by offspring sex, sex by birth order, or sex by maternal economic status. In the Cebu sample, there is no support for sex-based differences in reproductive investment during lactation as indexed by milk composition or nursing frequency. Further investigation in other populations is necessary to evaluate the potential for sex-based differences in milk composition among humans. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:209–216, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.