Changes in body weight and composition in response to the metabolic load imposed by lactation are highly variable among and within diverse populations. In most reports, rates of weight loss did not differ between lactating and nonlactating women. Despite differences in the hormonal milieu between lactating and nonlactating women, only subtle short-term differences were observed in postpartum changes in body composition. Regional patterns of fat deposition and mobilization did not differ between lactating and nonlactating women in most studies. Changes in body composition during lactation are responses to a sequence of complex neuroendocrine and biochemical stimuli that may be significantly modified by environmental factors. Gestational weight gain was the strongest determinant of postpartum weight and fat mass change, which supports the premise that biological mechanisms are aimed at restoring prepregnancy body weight and composition.