Breastfeeding and Pregnancy Weight

Breastfeeding and Pregnancy WeightBreastfeeding may seem to be primarily a postpartum concern but new research indicates otherwise. A recent study shows that breastfeeding initiation and success rates are lower among women who are obese prior to pregnancy and who gain excessive weight during pregnancy. The message of the study aims to encourage women to focus on their pre-pregnancy and pregnancy health in order to support their babies’ best interest after birth.

As reported in the Journal of Human Lactation, the study followed 216 women who intended to breastfeed and had single births.  Initial BMI data was recorded during pregnancy and correlated to the onset of lactogenesis 2, the stage after colostrum when milk begins to flow.

The women were divided into two groups: those with a BMI under 30 and those whose BMI was over 30 during pregnancy. A normal BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9. A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight. BMI of 30 and above is obese.

Approximately 46% of new moms with a BMI under 30 experienced delayed lactogenesis 2 and the statistic jumped to 58% among new moms considered obese. While this study did not differentiate between pre-pregnancy obesity and prenatal weight gain, other similar studies have showed pre-pregnancy obesity may even delay lactogenesis 1, the initial stage of colostrum.

The unfortunate chain reaction of delayed lactogenesis is multi-fold. First, after a period of time and without immediate support in the hospital, many moms chose to supplement breastfeeding. While the health of the baby is the first and foremost concern, supplementation often leads to continued supplementation, which further delays lactogenesis.

As babies get accustomed to supplementation, they may not take to the breast as easily and mothers may feel discouraged by breastfeeding. In the best of circumstances breastfeeding a newborn takes a lot of effort so it’s even more likely for new moms to give up if their babies aren’t interested in breastfeeding and their milk is not available. Constant feedings or pumping regularly while dealing with exhaustion is a tough choice to make and many moms cease breastfeeding altogether.

In fact, another study showed that the greater a mom’s BMI, the less likely she is to initiate breastfeeding and become dedicated to breastfeeding, plus she’s more likely to halt breastfeeding before meeting standard recommendations or her own goals.

All of this research highlights the need for support and intervention for moms who have health issues that may impede their success. This assistance is necessary from OBGYNs and their staff, nurses and on-staff lactation consultants at hospitals, and caregivers at home. For moms who know they are likely to face delayed lactogenesis due to being obese prior to pregnancy or who gained excessive weight during pregnancy, setting up a consultation with a lactation consultant can offer strategies and encouragement for breastfeeding success.

Sources: She Knows,, Breastfeeding Problems and NCBI