Comparison of lactational performance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian mothers in Indonesia

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Introduction: Vegetarian mothers are known to have lower pre-pregnancy nutritional status, thereby posing an increased risk to pregnancy outcomes, including lower maternal fat stores for lactation. This study aimed at analysing the association between predominant breastfeeding on the nutritional status of lactating vegetarian mothers and growth of their breastfed infants. Methods: A longitudinal study was conducted on mother-infant pairs who practised breastfeeding in five cities in Indonesia, selected purposively based on the Indonesia Vegetarian Society database. A total of 42 pairs of vegetarian and 43 pairs of non-vegetarian were followed since delivery to 24 weeks infant age. Anthropometric measurements (weight of infant and mother, length of infant) were taken of each subject every 4 weeks. Finally, 15 vegetarian and 18 non-vegetarian mother-infant pairs who had successfully followed through the 24 weeks of predominant breastfeeding were analysed. Results: Socio-demographic characteristics did not differ between the two dietary groups except in maternal parity. Vegetarian mothers had lower pre-pregnancy BMI but higher pregnancy weight gain compared to non-vegetarian mothers. This study shows that predominant breastfeeding had no effect on infant weight and length but had significant effect on mothers' BMI and weight loss. Conclusions: Without adequate energy intake during lactation, the postpartum nutritional status of the vegetarian mothers declined over time. The mothers in the non-vegetarian group in this study had a significantly greater energy intake compared with the vegetarians. This is the key factor for successful lactation performance of a 6-month duration of predominant breastfeeding as it offers good nutritional outcomes for both the mother and the infant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalMalaysian Journal of Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Lactation performance
  • Non-vegetarian mothers
  • Nutritional status
  • Vegetarian mothers


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