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Maternal nutrition during lactation

Authors
Nancy F Butte, PhD
Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc
Section Editors
Steven A Abrams, MD
Kathleen J Motil, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD

INTRODUCTION

A mother's capacity to produce milk of sufficient quantity and quality to support infant growth is resilient and remarkably resistant to nutritional deprivation. However, milk production normally affects maternal body composition and nutritional status, and lactating women have increased nutrient demands.

The changes in maternal nutritional status during lactation, effect of maternal nutrition on milk volume and composition, and nutrient requirements of lactating women are reviewed here. Additional aspects of breastfeeding are discussed separately.

EFFECTS OF LACTATION ON THE MOTHER

Lactation is supported partially by mobilization of tissue stores. This, in turn, affects maternal weight and nutritional status.

Body weight – Postpartum weight changes in lactating women are highly variable [1]. Mild, gradual weight loss typically occurs during the first six months postpartum. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is the most consistent and strongest predictor of postpartum weight change in most studies [1,2]. Other factors that contribute to weight loss after pregnancy include prepregnancy weight, age, parity, race, smoking, exercise, and return to work outside the home. (See "Overview of postpartum care", section on 'Postpartum weight retention'.)

Data are conflicting on the effect of breastfeeding on postpartum weight changes. Most studies indicate that lactation has little effect [3-8]. In some reports, weight loss was less in lactating than nonlactating women [2,9-11], whereas other studies report more weight loss in lactating women than nonlactating women [12-15]. A systematic review found little or no association between breastfeeding and weight change, although this seemed to depend on the measurement time points and breastfeeding intensity [16]. However, four out of five studies of high methodological quality demonstrated a positive association between breastfeeding and weight change.

                 

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Literature review current through: Jul 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 12, 2016.
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