Beyond the BMI: Validity and Practicality of Postpartum Body Composition Assessment Methods during Lactation: A Scoping Review

Nutrients. 2022 May 25;14(11):2197. doi: 10.3390/nu14112197.


The assessment of body composition during lactation is an important indicator of maternal nutritional status, which is central to the overall health of the mother and child. The lactating woman's nutritional status potentially impacts on breastmilk composition and the process of lactation itself. The purpose of this scoping review was to synthesize comparative studies that sought to validate various body composition assessment techniques for use in lactating women in the postpartum period. Using the PRISMA-ScR guidelines, a comprehensive, systematic literature search was conducted using Scopus, Web of Science, and PubMed. Eight comparative studies were included in the review, with data from 320 postpartum women. The design methodologies varied substantially across studies, and included a range of simple techniques to advanced multi-compartment models for assessing body composition. The validity and reliability of measurement tools must be considered alongside issues of safety, practicality, and appropriateness to guide the research design when applied to lactating women.

Keywords: anthropometry; breastfeeding; lactation; maternal body composition; maternal nutrition.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Reproducibility of Results

Grant support

No specific funding was obtained for this review. However, C.B. is a recipient of the Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend Scholarship, funded by the Australian Government and USC; and the Agilent Technologies Top-up/Sunshine Coast Research Scholarship (USCRS).