Breastfeeding and subsequent maternal visceral adiposity

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Nov;19(11):2205-13. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.185. Epub 2011 Jun 30.


Women gain visceral fat during pregnancy. Studies examining the impact of breastfeeding on maternal body composition are inconclusive. We examined the extent to which breastfeeding was associated with visceral adiposity in a sample of US women. This was a cross-sectional analysis of 351 women aged 45-58 years, who were free of clinical cardiovascular disease and had not used oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy in the 3 months prior to enrollment in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN)-Heart Study (2001-2003). History of breastfeeding was self-reported. Computed tomography was used to assess abdominal adiposity. Among premenopausal/early-peri-menopausal mothers, those who never breastfed had 28% greater visceral adiposity (95% confidence interval (CI): 11-49, P = 0.001), 4.7% greater waist-hip ratio (95% CI: 1.9-7.4, P < 0.001), and 6.49 cm greater waist circumference (95% CI: 3.71-9.26, P < 0.001) than mothers who breastfed all of their children for ≥3 months in models adjusting for study site; age; parity; years since last birth; socioeconomic, lifestyle, and family history variables; early adult BMI; and current BMI. In comparison to women who were nulliparous, mothers who breastfed all of their children for ≥3 months had similar amounts of visceral fat (P > 0.05). In contrast, premenopausal/early-peri-menopausal mothers who had never breastfed had significantly greater visceral adiposity (42% (95% CI: 17-70), P < 0.001), waist circumference (6.15 cm (95% CI: 2.75-9.56), P < 0.001), and waist-hip ratio (3.7% (95% CI: 0.69-6.8), P = 0.02) than nulliparous women. No significant relationships were observed among late peri-menopausal/postmenopausal women. In conclusion, until menopause, mothers who did not breastfeed all of their children for ≥3 months exhibit significantly greater amounts of metabolically active visceral fat than mothers who had breastfed all of their children for ≥3 months.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Life Style
  • Linear Models
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Premenopause / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Hip Ratio