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

Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Finding the Balance

Watching the numbers go up on the scale during pregnancy can be hard to bear for some moms-to-be, especially if they seem to fly by faster than you thought possible. For other moms, gaining enough weight to support their babies is a struggle.

Finding the balance for appropriate weight gain during pregnancy is harder than expected according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study reviewed statistics from 23 previous studies regarding weight gain during pregnancy. The results showed that nearly half of women gained more weight than recommended and approximately one quarter of women gained less weight during pregnancy than recommended.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Finding the BalanceRecommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy

The typical recommendation for weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds for women at a relatively healthy pre-pregnancy weight. Some women who are underweight prior to pregnancy may be advised to gain more weight and some women who are overweight prior to pregnancy may be advised to gain less. Moms who are carrying multiples will need to gain more weight as well.

The saying “eating for two” does not hold true and moms-to-be are urged to eat regularly during their first trimester, according to the CDC. Then expectant mothers should eat approximately 340 extra calories in the second trimester and 450 extra calories in the third trimester.

Risk of Too Much Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is not healthy for moms or babies. Moms who gain too much weight during their 40 or so weeks of pregnancy are likely to have oversized babies and more likely to require cesarean sections rather than vaginal births. Additionally, it puts the baby at increased risk of obesity later in life.

Of course there are also health risks involved for mothers who are overweight postpartum. It’s difficult to lose baby weight while taking care of a newborn and being overweight or obese may contribute to diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions or diseases.

Breastfeeding is one way to support your baby’s best nutritional health because it provides the exact set of nutrients your baby needs to thrive. Studies show breastfed babies are less likely to be obese in childhood and adulthood. Also, breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day and can help you slowly lose some baby weight.

Risk of Too Little Weight Gain During Pregnancy

On the flip side, babies born to moms who gained too little weight during pregnancy were up to 70% more likely to be born prematurely and underweight. Premature birth does not allow babies to continue to develop in the safe environment of the womb and can lead to many struggles as your baby tries to catch up on development while also surviving outside of the protection of a mother’s uterus. It may lead to birth defects, abnormalities or social, behavioral or cognitive differences in the future.

Often women who experience extreme pregnancy nausea and vomiting are among those who do not gain an adequate amount of weight during pregnancy. Also, being stressed or not prioritizing a mom’s own health can lead to too little weight gain during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding is also the best way to support a premature or underweight baby. The first breast milk a mother produces, colostrum, is rich in antibodies to help babies survive. As a mother’s breast milk matures, it becomes fattier and denser in calories to help babies grow bigger and stronger.

Sources: BabyCenter and LA Times