How Much Pregnancy Weight You Gain Could Impact Your Breastfeeding Experience

Nov 27, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. ET
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We already know there are so many factors to consider when breastfeeding. Now, recent research is suggesting that weight before and during pregnancy may also impact the process. A study published in the Journal of Human Lactation has found that delayed milk secretion — also known as lactogenesis — was more prevalent in women who were obese before they got pregnant. For women who gain excessive weight while pregnant, the second phase of lactogenesis (the stage when milk really begins to flow) could potentially be delayed.

Researchers looked at 216 women who had a body mass index of either under 30 and above 30. They found that 46.4 percent of women with a BMI under 30 had delayed lactogenesis 2 — and that rose to 57.9 percent among women who had a BMI higher than 30.

More: These 15 Healthy Tips Can Help Prep Your Body for Pregnancy

Laura Sarantinoudis-Jones, an international board-certified lactation consultant with Lucky Baby Lactation in New Jersey [full disclosure: She’s my lactation consultant] said that heavier women can improve their chances of breastfeeding successfully by seeking out professional help — especially if they do it prior to or right after birth. Some women report issues with infants latching on due to the small size of the baby’s mouth and the large size of their breasts.

She suggested that women should set up an in-home consult with an IBCLC. “Many women don’t realize that a certain amount of visits may be covered by their insurance company. You can get the help you need in the comfort of your own home,” she added.

According to previous research findings, for every five BMI units you increase (for example, going from overweight to obese class 1), your odds of initiating breastfeeding decrease. BMI was negatively correlated with both initiation and intensity of breastfeeding in this sample of overweight and obese women. Additionally, women at healthy weights nursed much longer than overweight mothers, while women who were obese nursed for a shorter period of time than those who are overweight according to a 2016 study.

Want to increase your chances of breastfeeding successfully? Sarantinoudis-Jones says to focus on staying healthy instead of the scale.

More: Pregnancy After 35 Could Be Good for Your Health

“The hardest thing for moms who have babies and breastfeeding is finding the time to focus on you. Being a new mom is exhausting,” she said. “Eat healthy, routinely exercise and be patient and kind to yourself. You are a mommy, you are tired, but don’t forget you are beautiful.”

By Kristen Fischer