New moms may be better able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight by exclusively breastfeeding their infants, according to new research.
“The practice of exclusive breastfeeding helps mothers lose the weight accumulated during pregnancy and do that faster compared to those who don’t practice exclusive breastfeeding,” Dr. Alex Kojo Anderson, of the University of Georgia in Athens, told Reuters Health.
Anderson and colleagues compared pre-pregnancy and at-delivery weight, with weight at 12 weeks after delivery, among 24 mothers, aged 19 to 42 years. Seventeen of these new moms exclusively breastfed their infants, while 9 mothers mixed-fed their infants using formula or a combination of formula and breastmilk.
According to the findings, published online in the International Breastfeeding Journal, during the first 4 weeks after delivery, mothers in the mixed feeding group lost more of their at-delivery weight than did mothers who exclusively breastfed. However, from 8 to 12 weeks this trend reversed.
When Anderson’s team compared the women’s post-pregnancy weight loss according to their pre-pregnancy weight, mothers who exclusively breastfed lost more weight at 2-, 4-, 8-, and 12-weeks after delivery than did mothers in the mixed feeding group.
This weight loss trend was evident in spite of the greater caloric intake and lower activity level among breastfeeding mothers, compared with mixed feeding mothers, the investigators found.
Moreover, “the trend in percent body fat loss was statistically significant among exclusive breastfeeding mothers and not the other group of mothers,” Anderson added.
“Our results provide further evidence that exclusive breastfeeding promotes greater weight loss than mixed feeding among mothers even in the early postpartum period,” Anderson and colleagues say. Encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their infants is one way to help these women avoid becoming overweight or obese, they conclude.
SOURCE: International Breastfeeding Journal, August 2008