Effect of lactation on maternal body weight: a systematic review

Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2003 Apr;58(4):265-9. doi: 10.1097/01.OGX.0000058116.93935.61.


The impact of lactation on maternal weight after delivery remains unclear. To address this question, we performed a systematic review of the literature. We searched PubMed, POPLINE, EMBASE, and LILACS computerized databases for relevant articles and classified the evidence using the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force rating system. We found 42 studies, of which 28 contained relevant information: 15 prospective cohort studies, 1 retrospective cohort study, 1 cross-sectional study, and 11 case-series reports. The methods used in these studies varied widely, thus precluding aggregation of results. Level II-2 and III evidence supports a class "C" recommendation: insufficient evidence exists to support an effect of lactation on maternal weight after delivery. Better longitudinal studies with a clear definition of breast-feeding; clear, specific outcome measures; study periods extending 1 or 2 years after delivery; and better control of potentially confounding factors will be needed to resolve this question.

Target audience: Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians.

Learning objectives: After completion of this article, the reader will be able to compile the literature on the effect of lactation on maternal weight, to compare the various studies, and to summarize the data on the effect of lactation on maternal weight gain.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Research Design