Impact of maternal obesity and breastfeeding intention on lactation intensity and duration

Nicole E. Marshall, Bernard Lau, Jonathan Q. Purnell, Kent L. Thornburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) has numerous maternal health benefits. However, EBF rates are lower in mothers with obesity. We sought to better understand whether maternal body composition measurements in early pregnancy are also predictive of lower rates of EBF. Healthy pregnant women with prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) of 17.5–51 kg/m 2 underwent determination of percent body fat (% body fat) in early (12–16 weeks) and late (37 weeks) gestation. Intent and duration of EBF were determined by surveys completed at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum (PP). Unadjusted and adjusted analyses were performed to compare EBF rates and weaning by maternal BMI and % body fat. Increasing BMI and % body fat in early pregnancy were significantly associated with lower rates of EBF among women intending EBF. Women with BMI ≥ 25 were less likely to be EBF at 6 weeks and 6 months PP compared with women of normal BMI (67 and 37% vs. 91 and 79%, P value 0.005 and 0.001, respectively). Among primiparous women intending EBF, 100% of women in the lowest two body fat quartiles in early pregnancy were EBF at 6 weeks PP compared with 66.7 and 63.6% of women in the higher quartiles (P = 0.03). Lactation cessation by 6 months PP was higher with increasing maternal BMI (P = 0.001). Maternal obesity in early gestation is associated with lower EBF rates among women intending EBF and earlier weaning. Excess adiposity in early pregnancy may impede EBF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12732
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • exclusive breastfeeding
  • obesity
  • weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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