If you have recently given birth, you probably cannot wait to shed all the extra pounds you have gained during pregnancy. Chances are, you have probably also heard that the quickest way to lose weight is to breastfeed.
Let us put this out of the way — breastfeeding is not the quick fix to post-pregnancy weight loss. It can help to an extent, but it is not the sole answer to losing weight. In this article, you will find other myths about losing weight while breastfeeding that you should know. Read on to also learn more about what you should and should not do about managing your weight during breastfeeding.
In this article:
- Is it safe to lose weight while breastfeeding?
- Breastfeeding and losing weight: how does it work?
- How do I lose weight without affecting my milk supply?
- What should I avoid when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding?
- Why can’t I lose weight?
- Why am I losing weight too fast?
Is it safe to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Yes, it is safe to lose weight while breastfeeding, but all things should come in moderation. Let us put things into perspective. Your body sheds 7-12 pounds right after giving birth because of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. According to La Leche League, extra fluids gained to support your pregnancy is also reabsorbed or removed by your body a few days later.
The average weight loss for breastfeeding mothers gradually slows down to 2 pounds per month after the post-delivery drop. However, it will be harder to lose fat since a breastfeeding body clings on to the extra fat to help nourish the baby.
If you are planning to lose weight, the safest average is 1.5 pounds a week or six pounds a month. Some studies also suggest that losing 2.2 pounds or 1 kilogram a week is safe enough without compromising your milk supply.
Breastfeeding and losing weight: how does it work?
Many factors come into play when it comes to breastfeeding and weight loss. Therefore, it is careless to assume that breastfeeding automatically equates to losing weight.
- Calories — It is true that breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, which amounts to around 500-600 calories per day. Some studies also suggest that in the long run, breastfeeding moms lose more weight than mothers who feed their babies with formula. However, if you are a breastfeeding mom, this also means that you have to fill up with calories in order to maintain a good milk supply.
- Hormones — Prolactin is the hormone responsible for your milk production, but it also slows down your metabolism. Moreover, higher prolactin also means lower progesterone, the hormone that helps you not to have immense cravings. This means that your body naturally craves for more food as you produce more prolactin.
It is also important to keep your food intake and your activity in check knowing that many things should be considered if you are looking forward to losing weight while breastfeeding.
How do I lose weight without affecting my milk supply?
It is always good to have your pre-pregnancy body back. However, this journey should not compromise you and your baby’s well-being. The following are some helpful tips about losing weight without affecting your milk supply:
- Focus on nourishing your baby — If you have just given birth, focus on resting and allow yourself to heal first before jumping into a workout routine. You and your baby will also have to learn how to nurse efficiently. Just relax and enjoy the moment — you will be surprised at how quickly this stage passes!
- Have a right mindset — You are beautiful, mom! It took you nine months to gain all that weight, so expect not to be able to shed it all off in a month. Each individual has a different experience, so focus on your progress. Set reasonable goals and avoid comparing yourself to other mothers at all cost.
- Give it time: Wait around 2 months — Allow your milk supply to stabilize first. Your baby will also need some time to learn how to latch and adjust to the outside world. You, on the other hand, also need to recover from giving birth and adjust to a new routine.
- Consume at least 1500-1800 calories per day — Since breastfeeding takes up about 500-600 calories per day, it is important to eat extra calories per day. La Leche League recommends that a breastfeeding mom should eat not less than 1500-1800 calories a day to keep a good milk supply. Some institutions actually put the threshold at least 1800 calories per day.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently — Instead of eating three big meals per day, you can spread these out to six meals throughout the day. This will make you feel less hungry and thus keep cravings at bay.
- Choose healthy foods — Instead of reaching for your cookie jar or going for a slice of cake, choose healthy substitutes. Remember that eating healthy does not mean not eating delicious meals. There are tons of healthy recipes that you can find online.
- Protein-rich food — Some examples are lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans. You can also get protein powder to mix in with your fruit smoothie for extra protein.
- Fruits and vegetables — Always include colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate. In between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can always choose to munch on fruits and vegetables instead of a bag of chips.
- Iron-rich food — Eat green and leafy vegetables, beans, and beef.
- Calcium-rich — You can get calcium from dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk.
- Complex carbohydrates — Choose brown rice instead of white rice, and wheat bread instead of white bread.
- Allow yourself to eat food high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates from time to time — It is not wrong to satisfy your cravings but keep them at a minimum. Eating healthy does not mean you cannot enjoy other foods at all. Actually, it may be harder to resist unhealthy foods if you decide to completely avoid them, as your cravings for them become stronger.
- Stay hydrated — Drink to thirst and drink a lot of fluids. Some mothers find it hard to drink a lot of water, so you may opt to drink infused water to make it more enjoyable.
- Incorporate moderate exercise into your lifestyle — Once your milk supply is established, you may begin working out to burn extra calories. Do not worry about not having enough time to spare! Even 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise squeezed into your daily routine can help. Do not worry about intense exercise at all; ease into it gradually.
- Cardiovascular exercises — Cardio will make your heart rate increase and keep you healthy. You can go for a walk with your baby in a stroller or in a carrier if it makes you feel more secure to have your little one close.
- Weight/Resistance exercises — Weight exercises will help you tone your muscles and strengthen them. You can focus on your core as it is harder to remove the excess fat around the belly.
- Get enough rest — It is hard to rest when you have to constantly attend to your baby’s needs. Still, rest as frequently as you can. Enlist the help of your partner or other trusted adults to take care of chores around the house. Remember that your priority is to care for your baby so do not feel guilty about not being able to do other chores. Plus, sleep depravity will make you crave for sweets and bad carbohydrates.
- Consult your nutritionist/dietician — It always helps to consult your nutritionist or dietician before undergoing any kind of diet. It may be that what you have in mind is not good for you, or you may have special needs.
What should I AVOID when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding?
- Don’t be hard on yourself — Do not be pressured to go back to your pre-pregnancy weight right away. Truly, society’s standards of beauty are impossible. Do not let yourself be affected by that. Motherhood is beautiful and so are you! It is hard, but it is great.
- Avoid stressing yourself — Remember to breathe, mom! Stress may affect your milk supply. You can be a good mother, and you can take care of yourself as well. Relax, go watch a movie, sleep and take naps. Talk to other mothers about your experiences and you will find that you are not alone in this journey
- Avoid crash diets — Do not be fooled by all these crazy diet fads. Take things slow and keep yourself healthy. Consult your dietician if you are thinking about trying a form of diet.
- Do not cut down too many calories — Remember to eat enough healthy calories. Going below 1500-1800 calories a day can affect your milk supply.
- Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates — While you should take extra calories while breastfeeding, this does not mean you free to eat all unhealthy foods. Take sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods in moderation.
- Avoid overly-processed foods — Nothing beats real food! Some foods that you can keep in stock are fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You can always snack on them when you feel hungry instead of processed foods.
- Avoid relying on dieting or exercise in isolation — Diet and exercise go hand in hand. It is wrong to think that you can forgo exercise when you become strict with your diet, or neglect a healthy diet when you workout extra harder. Sure, you can eat a little more if you want to move around, but again, dieting and exercise do not work in isolation.
Why can’t I lose weight?
One person’s experience may not be true for all. While there are mothers who effortlessly lose weight while breastfeeding, it may be frustrating for some who cannot lose weight right away.
- Wrong mindset — Dear mom, remember that you are amazing. Your weight does not determine your worth. Yes, it may be good, but learn to first accept yourself for who you are. If not, no amount of weight loss will help you feel good about yourself. Imagine, your body is literally giving life to a small one. If that is not beautiful, then what is? Keep your chin up, mom. Think positive thoughts. Your priority is nourishing your little one, but do not forget to give time to yourself as well.
- Post-pregnancy hormones — Recall that your body will undergo a lot of hormonal changes as you give birth and while you are breastfeeding. If your metabolism has already been slow before you became pregnant, expect it to be slower. You will naturally crave for more food as you breastfeed. Your body will hold on to a little extra fat, too.
- Spending extra calories on unhealthy foods — It is true that your body will take up extra calories as you breastfeed. However, this does not mean that this is a free pass for unhealthy calories. Allow your cravings to be satisfied every now and then, but always eat healthily.
- Not spending enough time on self-care — Sleepless nights are basically a staple in the life of a new mom. Still, remember to get enough rest, as you will crave for sweets and simple carbohydrates when you do not get enough sleep. Try to squeeze in some simple exercises in your daily routine. Remember that it does not have to be intense, just enough for you to burn calories.
- Hormonal issues — It may be that you are experiencing hormonal issues. Try to observe if your period is out of the ordinary, or if you are having a harder time with your Premenstrual Syndrome. Seek the help of your healthcare provider right away.
Why am I losing weight too fast?
From what we have discussed so far, you probably already understand how losing too much weight is not good especially for a breastfeeding mom. This may lead to a decreased milk supply and compromise your health. As your body goes into starvation mode, your body might also begin to draw from toxins from your body fat to supply the milk your baby needs.
There are some mothers, however, who encounter this problem even though they do not intend to. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Not enough calories — Milk production requires a lot of calories. Perhaps you may not be taking in enough to fill your needs. Be sure to store up on healthy calories every day.
- Hormonal issues — It is relatively common for some moms to have overactive thyroid glands after giving birth, which is called postpartum hyperthyroidism. One of the effects is too much weight loss, along with palpitations, difficulty sleeping, and overabundant milk supply.
- Overworking — Since you have now become literally the source of life of another being, learn to take care of yourself. Have enough rest and eat healthily. Above all, never feel guilty about spending time for self-care and relaxation. You deserve it and so much more!
If you think you are still losing weight too fast, never hesitate to see your healthcare provider. Again, if done in moderation, it is not impossible nor unsafe to lose weight while breastfeeding.