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Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):959-67.

Randomized trial of the short-term effects of dieting compared with dieting plus aerobic exercise on lactation performance.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis 95616-8669, USA.



Limiting postpartum weight retention is important for preventing adult obesity, but the effect of weight loss on lactation has not been studied adequately.


We evaluated whether weight loss by dieting, with or without aerobic exercise, adversely affects lactation performance.


At 12+/-4 wk postpartum, exclusively breast-feeding women were randomly assigned for 11 d to a diet group (35% energy deficit; n = 22), a diet plus exercise group (35% net energy deficit; n = 22), or a control group (n = 23). Milk volume, composition, and energy output; maternal weight, body composition, and plasma prolactin concentration; and infant weight were measured before and after the intervention.


Weight loss averaged 1.9, 1.6, and 0.2 kg in the diet, diet + exercise, and control groups, respectively (P < 0.0001) and was composed of 67% fat in the diet group and nearly 100% fat in the diet + exercise group. Change in milk volume, composition, and energy output and infant weight did not differ significantly among groups. However, there was a significant interaction between group and baseline percentage body fat: in the diet group only, milk energy output increased in fatter women and decreased in leaner women. The plasma prolactin concentration was higher in the diet and diet + exercise groups than in the control group.


Short-term weight loss (approximately 1 kg/wk) through a combination of dieting and aerobic exercise appears safe for breast-feeding mothers and is preferable to weight loss achieved primarily by dieting because the latter reduces maternal lean body mass. Longer-term studies are needed to confirm these findings.

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