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Reproductive & Child Health News

Moderate Weight Loss Allowed for Overweight Breastfeeding Moms
March 20, 2000

If you're overweight and breastfeeding, it may be okay to lose some weight. A new study shows that it is safe to lose weight on a sensible weight loss program, without presenting any risk to breast fed infants.

Many women retain weight gained during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding does help burn calories, weight loss varies considerably among lactating women. Researchers from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro studied the effects of weight loss on 40 overweight, breastfeeding women. All of the women had given birth a month prior to the beginning of the study, and met the criteria of being overweight, defined by having a body mass of 25 to 30. Randomly divided into a diet and exercise or control group, weight and fat mass of the women and the weight and length of the infants was measured before, during, and at the end of the 10 week study period.

Twenty-one of the women decreased their daily intake by 500 kcal in addition to exercising for 45 minutes a day four days a week. The control group maintained their regular eating habits and did not exercise more than once a week. At the end of 10 weeks, the participants in the diet and exercise group had lost an average of 10 pounds, while the control group had only reduced by 2 pounds. The infants in both groups had similar gains in weight and length, and the women in the diet and exercise group did not report any decrease in their milk supply.

Reporting their results in the Feb. 17 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine," the researchers conclude that weight loss of approximately 0.5 kg per week, which occurs between the fourth and 14th week postpartum does not affect infant growth or milk production. However, results may be different for women who are less overweight, with a body mass index less than 25.




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