Does milk and dairy consumption during pregnancy influence fetal growth and infant birthweight? A systematic literature review

Anne Lise Brantsæter, Anna S Olafsdottir, Elisabet Forsum, Sjurdur F Olsen, Inga Thorsdottir

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It is increasingly acknowledged that the maternal diet influences fetal development and health of the child. Milk and milk products contribute essential nutrients and bioactive substances; they are of ample supply and have a long tradition in Nordic countries. To revise and update dietary guidelines for pregnant women valid in Nordic countries, the Pregnancy and Lactation expert group within the NNR5 project identified a need to systematically review recent scientific data on infant growth measures and maternal milk consumption. The objective of this study was to assess the influence of milk and dairy consumption during pregnancy on fetal growth through a systematic review of studies published between January 2000 and December 2011. A literature search was run in June 2011. Two authors independently selected studies for inclusion from the 495 abstracts according to predefined eligibility criteria. A complementary search in January 2012 revealed 64 additional abstracts published during the period June to December 2011, among them one study of interest previously identified. Of the 33 studies extracted, eight were relevant research papers. Five were prospective cohort studies (including a retrospective chart review), one was a case-control study, and two were retrospective cohort studies. For fetal length or infant birth length, three studies reported no association and two reported positive associations with milk or dairy consumption. For birthweight related outcomes, two studies reported no associations, and four studies reported positive associations with milk and/or dairy consumption. There was large heterogeneity in exposure range and effect size between studies. A beneficial fetal growth-increase was most pronounced for increasing maternal milk intake in the lower end of the consumption range. Evidence from prospective cohort studies is limited but suggestive that moderate milk consumption relative to none or very low intake, is positively associated with fetal growth and infant birthweight in healthy, Western populations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of Nutrition. Supplement/Naringsforskning, Supplement
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • maternal milk and dairy consumption
  • fetal growth
  • systematic review
  • Nordic nutrition recommendations


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