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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2046-52. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.25. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Longitudinal association of maternal attempt to lose weight during the postpartum period and child obesity at age 3 years.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. kendrin.sonneville@childrens.harvard.edu


The effect of maternal attempt to lose weight during the postpartum period on later child weight has not been explored. Among 1,044 mother-infant pairs in Project Viva, we estimated longitudinal associations of maternal attempt to lose weight during the postpartum period with child weight and adiposity at age 3 years and examined differences in associations by type of weight loss strategy used. Using covariate-adjusted linear and logistic regression models, we estimated associations before and after adjusting for maternal weight-related variables including prepregnancy BMI. At 6 months postpartum, 53% mothers were trying to lose weight. At age 3 years, mean (s.d.) child BMI z-score was 0.44 (1.01) and 8.9% of children were obese. Children whose mothers were trying to lose weight at 6 months postpartum had higher BMI z-scores (0.30 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.18, 0.42)) and were more likely to be obese (3.0 (95% CI 1.6, 5.8)) at 3 years of age. Addition of maternal prepregnancy BMI to the models attenuated but did not eliminate the associations seen for BMI z-score (0.24 (95% CI 0.12, 0.36) and obesity (2.4 (95% CI 1.2, 4.7)). Attempting to lose weight by exercising alone was the only weight loss strategy that consistently predicted higher child BMI z-score (0.36 (95% CI 0.14, 0.58)) and odds of obesity (6.0 (95% CI 2.2, 16.5)) at age 3 years. In conclusion, we observed an association between maternal attempt to lose weight at 6 months postpartum, particularly through exercise alone, measured using a single item and child adiposity at age 3 years. This association should be thoroughly examined in future studies.

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