Lactation and weight retention

Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Nov;66(5):1116-24. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/66.5.1116.


The effect of lactation on weight retention was investigated longitudinally, with data collected at 0.5, 2, 4, 6, 12, and 18 mo after parturition in 110 women aged 20-40 y who had been nulliparous or primiparous. At each evaluation women were categorized as fully breast-feeding, partly breast-feeding, or bottle-feeding including infants weaned to a bottle (bottle feeding/weaned). Postpartum weight retention was calculated by subtracting weight before pregnancy from weight at each evaluation. Lactation practices were found to be significantly associated (P < 0.05) with postpartum weight retention by longitudinal regression analysis. Women who bottle-fed their infants retained more weight over time than women who breast-fed their infants. Significantly slower rates of weight loss were observed when women ceased breast-feeding or switched from fully to partly breast-feeding. Weight retention over time was greater in women who were older, unmarried, or had greater weight gain during pregnancy (P < 0.05). A pattern of weight gain rather than weight loss was observed in unmarried women. Our findings suggest that lactation influences the pattern of postpartum weight retention; however, the effect of lactation on weight retention was sufficiently limited to warrant minimal emphasis on lactation as a means of minimizing postpartum weight retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Marital Status
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight Gain*
  • Weight Loss*