Trying to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding? Here’s What You Need to Know
If you’ve recently had a baby (or are approaching your due date), you might be starting to wonder about your post-baby body. When is it safe and healthy to start working out again? Is it safe to try to lose weight while breastfeeding?
There’s a lot to consider, especially if you’re considering dieting while you’re breastfeeding. With the right care and advice from your healthcare provider, you can smartly learn how to work toward some of your own postpartum fitness or weight loss goals while keeping your baby happy, healthy and well fed. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you just had a baby, are breastfeeding and trying to lose weight.
Call in an Expert
First and foremost, be sure to consult with or meet with a nutritionist or your healthcare provider before you start any sort of plan involving your diet. They’ll be able to help you develop a safe, healthy and individualized plan for losing weight, and they can help you track and tweak that plan along the way. You’ll also get peace of mind knowing you have help with this process, from someone who’s trained on how to keep you and your baby healthy.
Remember That You’re Already Burning Extra Calories
If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you’ll burn an average of 400-500 calories each day to make milk, which is something to keep in mind as you’re contemplating losing weight. According to the La Leche League International, breastfeeding moms tend to lose more weight than mothers who don’t. You won’t want to cut your calories too much, even if you diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that women who eat less than 1,800 calories a day could reduce their milk production. Stress, anxiety and fatigue can also contribute to decreasing milk production.
Don’t Start Right Away
It’s recommended to put off the start of any diet until your baby is at least two months old. This gives you a chance to establish a breastfeeding relationship with your baby and lets your body level out a bit when it comes to milk supply. Starting a diet too early runs the risk of throwing off your milk production, which might result in supply issues right away or somewhere down the road.
Gradual weight loss of 1 pound per week (4 pounds per month) is the healthiest approah for moms who want to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
No Matter What, Hydrate
Breastfeeding requires a nursing mama to be incredibly well hydrated. Breast milk is about 90% water, and experts recommend drinking about 128 ounces of water each day while breastfeeding. A bonus: thirst can often be misinterpreted as hunger, so if you’re staying well hydrated while you’re breastfeeding you also might snack a bit less, or feel fuller with smaller portions at meals.
Slow and Steady is the Way to Go
Remember that it took you several months to gain weight during pregnancy, so take the same approach to getting it off postpartum. Losing weight too quickly by severely restricting calories not only has the potential to cause your milk supply to tank (making breastfeeding much more challenging), it will also put your own health at risk. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that gradual weight loss of 1 pound per week (4 pounds per month) is the healthiest approach for moms who want to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
Now is Not the Time for a Fad Diet
Really, there’s NEVER a healthy time for a fad diet, and particularly while you’re breastfeeding. Those quick-fix approaches (fad diets, weight loss medication, etc.) are a no-no in a big way. Just don’t do it. Like, ever.
Focus on Whole Food Nutrition
The healthiest ways to lose weight, whether you’re breastfeeding or not, is to eat whole food. You need protein, fiber, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates. You can get those nutrients from foods like organic vegetables, whole grains and organic/grass-fed meat. A diet that’s rich in these whole foods will leave you feeling great and looking great.
Sleep as Much as You Can
I know, I know. Get adequate sleep while you have a newborn living in the house? Laughable! But sleep is so important to overall health and to weight loss/healthy weight maintenance, so catch as many Z’s as you’re able to, even during this new baby stage.
Move Your Body
This can include walking, gentle yoga, or stretching. When you get the go-ahead from your doctor, it can also include more high-intensity forms of movement. Don’t work out too much, because you don’t want to burn out, increase cortisol, or lose weight too quickly. Consistent movement while you’re breastfeeding is the key, and it will be a huge help in achieving your weight loss goals.
Breastfeeding moms tend to lose more weight than mothers who do not. Breastfeeding exclusively can burn an extra 400 to 500 calories a day.
Be kind to yourself
This can be a long and sometimes frustrating process, and there’s so much else going on: navigating breastfeeding, fluctuating hormones, lack of sleep, and a whole new routine and role to get used to. It can be easy to get down on yourself if you feel you’re losing weight too slowly, or to compare yourself to other moms whose bodies might be responding differently in the postpartum phase than yours is. Remember that your body did an amazing thing by growing and birthing a human, and now it’s continuing to do an amazing thing by nourishing that same little human. Make sure you have a nursing bra you love. Treat yourself to some new clothes that feel great right now. And remember to take a heavy dose of positive self-talk daily – doctor’s orders.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any weight loss plan.