Background: The retention of weight gained during pregnancy may contribute to obesity. Lactation should promote weight loss, but weight loss is highly variable among lactating women. The risks associated with the restriction of energy intake during lactation have not been adequately evaluated. The purpose of this study was to determine whether weight loss by women during lactation affects the growth of their infants.
Methods: We randomly assigned 40 breast-feeding women who were overweight (defined as a body-mass index [the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters] of 25 to 30) at 4 weeks post partum either to restrict their energy intake by 500 kcal per day and to exercise for 45 minutes per day for 4 days per week (the diet-and-exercise group) or to maintain their usual dietary intake and not exercise more than once per week for 10 weeks (the control group). We measured the weight and fat mass of the women and the weight and length of the infants before, during, and at the end of the study period.
Results: The mean (+/-SD) energy intake decreased by 544+/-471 kcal per day in the diet-and-exercise group. As compared with the control group, the women in the diet-and-exercise group lost more weight (4.8+/-1.7 kg vs. 0.8+/-2.3 kg, P<0.001) and fat mass (4.0+/-2.0 kg vs. 0.3+/-1.8 kg, P<0.001). The gains in weight and length of the infants whose mothers were in the diet-and-exercise group (1925+/-500 g and 7.8+/-2.0 cm, respectively) were not significantly different from those of the infants whose mothers were in the control group (1861+/-576 g and 7.3+/-1.7 cm).
Conclusions: Weight loss of approximately 0.5 kg per week between 4 and 14 weeks post partum in overweight women who are exclusively breast-feeding does not affect the growth of their infants.