Postpartum weight loss in breastfeeding mothers – Part 1

Women who are able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight within six months after giving birth are at lower risk of being obese later in life.

For many women, it may be difficult to return to their pre-pregnancy weight after giving birth. This may be a problem if the weight gain puts the mother at risk for health problems including heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Though research has found that women who are able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight within six months after giving birth are at lower risk of being obese later in life, only about 37 percent of women are able to do this.

A recent review studied ways of achieving a healthy body weight after giving birth, including diet, exercise and the combination of diet and exercise in breastfeeding women. When combining the results of the studies, authors concluded that women who only exercised (no dietary intervention) did not lose more weight than women in the combined group. The women who exercised, however improved cardiovascular fitness and still reached a more fat-free weight than women who did not exercise. Women who restricted calories alone lost 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds) more than women who did not diet, and women who dieted and exercised lost 1.93 kilograms (4.2 pounds) more than women who did not engage in dieting and exercise. The women in the diet and exercise group were more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight and attain a healthy weight compared to women who did not diet or exercise. The women who combined diet and exercise also had less body fat and better cardiovascular fitness.

Though the weight difference between those who dieted and those who both dieted and exercised was not large, Michigan State University Extension still recommends engaging in physical activity, since exercise has benefits outside of weight loss, including improved circulation and heart health.

Because this review focused only on breastfeeding women, there is a need to examine the effects of weight loss tactics for women who do not breastfeed.

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