Open Access Research article

Patterns of nutrients’ intake at six months in the northeast of Italy: a cohort study

Paola Pani1, Claudia Carletti1, Alessandra Knowles1, Maria Parpinel2, Federica Concina2, Marcella Montico3 and Adriano Cattaneo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Health Services Research and International Health, Institute for Maternal and Child Health IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, Via dell’Istria 65/1, 34137 Trieste, Italy

2 Department of Medical and Biological Sciences, University of Udine, Udine, Italy

3 Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute for Maternal and Child Health IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Italy

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BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:127  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-127

Published: 22 May 2014



Adequate complementary feeding is recognized as an important predictor of health later in life. The objective of this study was to describe the feeding practices and nutrients’ intake, and their association with breastfeeding at six months of age, in a cohort of infants enrolled at birth in the maternity hospital of Trieste, Italy.


Out of 400 infants enrolled at birth, 268 (67%) had complete data gathered through a 24-hour feeding diary on three separate days at six months, and two questionnaires administered at birth and at six months. Data from feeding diaries were used to estimate nutrients’ intakes using the Italian food composition database included in the software. To estimate the quantity of breastmilk, information was gathered on the frequency and length of breastfeeds.


At six months, 70% of infants were breastfed and 94% were given complementary foods. The average daily caloric intake was higher in non-breastfed (723 Kcal) than in breastfed infants (547 Kcal, p < 0.001) due to energy provided by complementary foods (321 vs. 190 Kcal, p < 0.001) and milk (363 vs. 301 Kcal, p = 0.007). Non-breastfed infants had also higher intakes of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The mean intake of macronutrients was within recommended ranges in both groups, except for the higher protein intake in non-breastfed infants. These consumed significantly higher quantities of commercial baby foods than breastfed infants.


Contrary to what is recommended, 94% of infants were not exclusively breastfed and were given complementary foods at six months. The proportion of daily energy intake from complementary foods was around 50% higher than recommended and with significant differences between breastfed and non-breastfed infants, with possible consequences for future nutrition and health.

Breastfeeding; Complementary feeding; Food and nutrient intake; Public health; Policy; Italy