People with overweight and obesity have lower breastfeeding initiation rates and there is greater risk of early breastfeeding cessation. For example in Australia, breastfeeding initiation was 95% for those who were normal-weight, 93% for those who were overweight and 87% for those who were obese. At 6 months, 64% of normal-weight people were breastfeeding, compared with 54% of overweight and 44% of obese people. Obese parents are at particularly high risk of stopping breastfeeding in the first week (odds ratio of 2.5, adjusted for caesarean birth and other factors).

Key themes to explain lower breastfeeding initiation and maintenance are:


1. Impact of birth complications (covered in another page)

2. Lack of privacy in hospital alongside negative body image, embarrassment at breastfeeding in public and feeling of stigma

3. Specific difficulties with positioning and attachment due to larger breasts

4.  Delayed onset of lactation

5. Reduced uptake of specialist breastfeeding support (which might be due to feeling of stigma, body image and privacy)


Support from healthcare professionals and family members influenced breastfeeding outcomes. Breastfeeding support services need to explicitly consider the needs of overweight and obese parents.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 18% of pregnant people and is associated with obesity. There have been suggestions that PCOS may be a risk factor for lower breastfeeding initiation and duration, but it is not clear that this is separate from the affect of obesity. In addition it has been suggested that metformin may improve breastfeeding outcomes in PCOS but no robust evidence is available. 


Thank you for visiting the Hospital Infant Feeding Network. This website is a repository of relevant knowledge and best practice resources for health professionals. To join the conversation, ask questions and share your experiences please join us on Facebook or Twitter.


We will be running Q&A sessions on various topics, which will be advertised on our social media sites. Please email if you have ideas or want to get more involved. We welcome health professionals passionate about supporting breastfeeding and lactation in the hospital setting to join our steering group, please get in contact if this is you!

You may have noticed that we use 'additive' language on our website to refer to lactation and human milk feeding. This means that we might refer to 'breastfeeding/chestfeeding'. Chestfeeding is a term that some non-binary people use to refer to feeding their child at the chest if the word breast is not congruent with their gender identity. Using additive language helps reduce a feeling of exclusion for non-binary and transgender people, without taking away from the importance of words like breastfeeding and mother. There is a much more detailed description of the additive approach here.

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