Breast-feeding and postpartum weight retention: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Public Health Nutr. 2015 Dec;18(18):3308-16. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015000828. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Objective: Weight gained during pregnancy and postpartum weight retention might contribute to obesity in women of childbearing age. Whether breast-feeding (BF) may decrease postpartum weight retention (PPWR) is still controversial. The purpose of our systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate the relationship between BF and PPWR.

Design: Three databases were systematically reviewed and the reference lists of relevant articles were checked. Meta-analysis was performed to quantify the pooled standardized mean differences (SMD) of BF on PPWR by using a random-effect model. Heterogeneity was tested using the χ 2 test and I 2 statistics. Publication bias was estimated from Egger's test (linear regression method) or Begg's test (rank correlation method).

Results: Among 349 search hits, eleven studies met the inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis. Seven studies were conducted in the USA, one in Brazil, one in France, one in Georgia and one in Croatia. Compared with formula-feeding, BF for 3 to ≤6 months seemed to have a negative influence on PPWR and if BF continued for >6 months had little or no influence on PPWR. In a subgroup meta-analysis, the results did not change substantially after the analysis had been classified by available confounding factors. There was no indication of a publication bias from the result of either Egger's test or Begg's test.

Conclusions: Although the available evidence held belief that BF decreases PPWR, more robust studies are needed to reliably assess the impact of patterns and duration of BF on PPWR.

Keywords: Exclusive breast-feeding; Formula feeding; Mixed feeding; Obesity; Postpartum weight retention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding* / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Overweight / prevention & control*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss