Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Jeannette Ickovics

Second Advisor

Melinda Irwin


Obesity continues to be a public health issue, especially among children and women of childbearing age. Breastfeeding results in weight loss among postpartum women, as well as protects growing children from obesity. To date, no reviews have simultaneously analyzed the impact of breastfeeding on obesity for mothers and children. In addition, this review is novel in that it provides evidence from both observational and intervention studies. The primary objectives of this systematic review of studies in the United States (2000-2013) are to: (1) describe the association between obesity and breastfeeding across the developmental lifespan (2) identify the impact of breastfeeding interventions for mothers the literature on breastfeeding and obesity interventions for mothers and children. Twenty-three studies met inclusion criteria. There was moderate evidence for intervention studies for obese women to exclusively breastfeed as well as lose weight, with a modest weight loss of 0.39 kilograms on average. Conversely, there was strong evidence for creating future interventions for childhood obesity that incorporate breastfeeding, with a dose-response relationship between the amount of time breastfed and the protective effect against obesity, ranging from 0.49 to 0.90. More emphasis needs to be placed on breastfeeding as beneficial for both mother and child, and this can be done by creating more comprehensive intervention studies with strong designs and large sample sizes.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access