Can being overweight affect my milk supply?

Overweight mothers are less likely to start breastfeeding. Their milk is more likely to come in late and they tend to breastfeed for shorter times. Studies suggest that excess weight affects breast development by causing inflammation and abnormal hormone levels, which interfere with the growth and development of milk tissue. It may also affect a mother’s response to suckling, reducing the milk supply over time. Being overweight may lead to other problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and Caesarean deliveries, which can make breastfeeding more difficult. Positioning the baby at the breast may have challenges.

A) Likelihood of breastfeeding

Compared with mothers of average weight, mothers who are obese are (Achike 2021; Hashemi-Nazari 2020; Nomura 2020):

  • Less likely to start breastfeeding.
  • More likely to:
    • Breastfeed for shorter times.
    • Have their milk come in late.

The higher the degree of overweight, the more likely mothers are to have breastfeeding difficulty (Marshall 2018; Ramji 2018).

One study found that mothers who were obese before or around the time of puberty were more likely to have a low milk supply than those whose obesity developed later (Hawkins 2019).

Mothers who are overweight or obese can struggle with the impact of medical intervention during labour and delivery and doubt their ability to breastfeed. They benefit from extra support from health-care providers (Lyons 2019; Zimmerman 2019).

B) Effect of obesity on the breast

Obesity may decrease breast tissue development through inflammation or through abnormal levels of estrogen or other hormones (Brown 2014; Kamikawa et al. 2009; Olson et al. 2010). With less milk tissue, mothers make less milk.

Obesity may also affect the function of the breast. Mothers who are overweight or obese appear to produce less prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, in response to the baby’s suckling (Masho 2015; Rasmussen 2004). This may result in the milk supply decreasing over time.

The negative effects of obesity on breastfeeding and breast milk production may continue even after a mother returns to a normal weight following dietary changes or weight-loss (bariatric) surgery (Gascoin 2017). Mothers who have undergone bariatric surgery are less likely to start breastfeeding and are more likely to stop early (Del Sordo 2020). Mothers who have had bariatric surgery are at risk of vitamin and other nutritional deficiencies and should be monitored by their health-care providers (Adsit 2021).


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Zimmerman E, Rodgers RF, O'Flynn J, et al. Weight-Related Concerns as Barriers to Exclusive Breastfeeding at 6 Months. J Hum Lact. 2019 May;35(2):284-291