Trajectory and determinants of change in lean soft tissue over the postpartum period

Br J Nutr. 2019 May;121(10):1137-1145. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002015. Epub 2018 Sep 4.


The aim of this study was to characterise changes in lean soft tissue (LST) and examine the contributions of energy intake, physical activity and breast-feeding practices to LST changes at 3 and 9 months postpartum. We examined current weight, LST (via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), dietary intake (3-d food diary), physical activity (Baecke questionnaire) and breast-feeding practices (3-d breast-feeding diary) in forty-nine women aged 32·9 (sd 3·8) years. Changes in LST varied from -2·51 to +2·50 kg with twenty-nine women gaining LST (1·1 (sd 0·7) kg, P<0·001) and twenty women losing LST (-0·9 (sd 0·8) kg, P<0·001). Energy intake (133 (SD 42) v. 109 (SD 33) kJ/kg, P=0·019) and % kJ from fat at 3 months postpartum was higher in women who gained LST at 9 months postpartum (gained LST=34 (sd 5) % kJ; lost LST=29 (sd 4) % kJ, P=0·002). Women who gained LST reported breast-feeding their infants more frequently (gained LST=8 (sd 3) feeds/d; lost LST=5 (sd 1) feeds/d, P=0·014) and for more time per d (gained LST=115 (sd 78) min/d; lost LST=59 (sd 34) min/d, P=0·016) at 9 months postpartum. Energy intake and % kJ from fat at 3 months were significant predictors of LST gain (β=0·08 (se 0·04) and 0·24 (se 0·09), respectively). This suggests that gain in LST may be associated with more frequent and longer episodes of breast-feeding at 9 months postpartum as well as dietary intake early in the postpartum period.

Keywords: DXA dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; FFM fat-free mass; FM fat mass; GWG gestational weight gain; LST lean soft tissue; Dietary intake; Lactation; Lean soft tissue; Physical activity; Postpartum period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Diet Surveys
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy