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Does a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight influence infant growth?

Researchers examined how a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight alters her breastmilk, and how this, in turn, affects her infant’s growth.

With childhood obesity increasing around the world, clinicians and researchers are searching for ways to curb the growing rates. In a recent study, researchers went to the beginning stages of life to determine the influences on infant growth. They were interested in understanding if, and how, the weight of a mother prior to pregnancy influenced her infant’s growth through breastfeeding. Many studies have reported the benefits of breastfeeding, one such benefit being healthy, and controlled weight gain in the infant. However, it is not yet known why or how this occurs. The researchers in this study decided to analyze inflammatory markers, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 6, hormones, such as leptin, and anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids found in breastmilk to determine their influence on infant growth.

Researchers recruited pregnant women aged 18-40 for the study. They grouped the participants according to their pre-pregnancy body mass indices and collected blood samples as well as fasted breast milk samples from the mothers. To assess the effects of the breastmilk on infant growth, they measured the height, weight, and fat mass of each baby one to two months after birth.

A mother’s pre-pregnancy weight affects the infant’s response to breastmilk

The final participant group included 33 pregnant women with an average age of 29. No significant differences in the levels of inflammatory biomarkers were found between the group of women with a normal body mass index and the overweight group, but the overweight group had higher leptin levels. A negative correlation was found between inflammatory markers, hormones, and polyunsaturated fatty acids and infant growth among children born to women with normal pre-pregnancy weights, and any correlations found for infants born to mothers who were overweight or obese pre-pregnancy were insignificant.

The findings suggest that since the composition of breastmilk isn’t altered by a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight, being overweight prior to pregnancy alters how the infant responds to the breastmilk, resulting in inadequate growth. Exactly how this occurs has yet to be determined. Women planning to have children should be mindful of their weight status in order to help prevent growth issues in their child.

Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

Reference: Nussm H., Altazanm A., Zabaleta, J., Sothern, M., & Redman, L. (2019). Maternal pre-pregnancy weight status modifies the influence of PUFAs and inflammatory biomarkers in breastmilk on infant growth. PLOS ONE.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay



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