Exploring Breastfeeding and Pumping as Unhealthy Weight Control Methods

line drawing of a woman holding a baby

Breastfeeding and pumping are widely recognized as beneficial for both mother and child. However, due to ability of both to burn calories, some women may excessively breastfeed and pump as a method of weight control, according to a new paper by investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine and Yale School of Medicine. Women with a history of an eating disorder or a current eating disorder are likely at particular risk, the investigators note. They posit that breastfeeding and pumping in this way could have undesirable consequences on maternal physical and mental health which in turn, may negatively affect the child.

Little research regarding postpartum women with eating disorders who breastfeed or pump for weight control exists, although a few reports have indicated this does occur. Co-lead authors, Drs. Suzanne Bailey-Straebler and Leah Susser, both at Weill Cornell Medicine, along with Dr. Zafra Cooper from the Yale School of Medicine, hope to shine a light on this behavior and encourage further exploration. In their paper, published June 1 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, they highlight the need to better understand the prevalence of these behaviors and their impact on both mother and child.

The authors outline a comprehensive research agenda to fully investigate the behavior. In addition, they encourage clinicians to ask about breastfeeding practices and motivations in their patients with current eating disorders or a history of an eating disorder. They describe that certain behaviors reported by patients may be especially suggestive of excessive breastfeeding or pumping and require follow-up exploration.  

Co-first authors: Dr. Suzanne Bailey-Straebler, Dr. Leah C. Susser

Corresponding Author: Suzanne Bailey-Straebler


Weill Cornell Medicine
Office of External Affairs
Phone: (646) 962-9476