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Blog Weight Loss How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding: Your Guide To Postnatal Weight Loss

How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding: Your Guide To Postnatal Weight Loss

breastfeeding diet

The surge of emotions you had when you first held your bundle of joy is unexplainable. Right now, a glance at the mirror, and you almost can’t recognize the person you see. Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes, both physically and psychologically. Physically, you gain weight and expand in all areas to accommodate the baby. Shedding this weight may be challenging, especially if you are breastfeeding, as it requires you to eat well to maintain your milk supply. It is hard to lose weight when you are always eating. You are probably looking for ways to lose weight faster while breastfeeding. Here are some practical ways to help you safely lose weight and breastfeeding.

Intermittent Fasting According To The Age

Does Breastfeeding Help Lose Weight?

Breastfeeding has numerous benefits, and one of them is potential weight loss. As a matter of fact, many new mums look forward to losing weight while breastfeeding(2). In addition, it is not recommended to exercise or go on a restrictive diet immediately after childbirth. Therefore, breastfeeding seems like the most viable way of losing pregnancy weight. 

Postpartum weight loss varies from one woman to another. However, many nursing women confirm that breastfeeding helped them regain their pre-baby bodies quite faster. So, how does breastfeeding help lose weight? 

Here is how.

When you breastfeed, you use the fat cells and calories stored in your body to fuel milk production (13). This impacts energy balance which can contribute to weight loss. 

Breastfeeding mothers burn an average of 500 extra calories daily. This is the equivalent of doing a 60-minute medium-intense physical exercise (17). So, theoretically, burning an extra 500 calories each day means that you can potentially lose an average of 1.8 kgs every month (17).  

Additionally, mothers who are careful about what they eat during breastfeeding may contribute further to weight loss. A new mom’s ideal diet consists of fewer processed foods and added sugars and more fiber-rich foods, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables (4, 5).

However, bodies are different. And losing weight through breastfeeding may not be as easy for some women. Some may actually gain weight. The reasons for this are diverse, ranging from eating habits to sleeping patterns to genetics. For example, a mother who eats more and moves less is likely to gain weight, even when breastfeeding (1). 

Plus, your sleep patterns may be the reason why you are not shedding off the extra pounds. Lack of sleep increases hunger and appetite (20).

Read More: How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding: Getting On Track To Your Pre-Pregnancy Weight

losing weight while breastfeeding
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Is It Safe To Diet While Breastfeeding?

Losing weight after having a baby can be difficult. We know how much you struggle to shed off the extra layers of fat around your midriff. And, you have thought of going on a diet. But, dieting while breastfeeding is a game of cards.

Before you go on a diet, remember that your baby depends on your breastmilk for essential nutrition. Before you introduce complementary feeding, your baby depends on your breastmilk wholly. Therefore, any diet you choose needs to be wholesome. 

You can diet safely while breastfeeding if you follow the following guidelines. Before you commence, ensure you consult with your doctor and nutritionist. Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure safe dieting while breastfeeding:

Wait Until Your Baby Is At Least Two Months

Pregnancy and delivery put a lot of stress on the body. Therefore, allow it to properly heal and rejuvenate before you go on a diet. Additionally, give yourself time to establish a healthy milk supply for your baby, enough to minimize the chances of being affected by your diet (8). 

Breastfeed Constantly And Without Restrictions

Even while on a diet, keep up your breastfeeding routine. This helps to promote weight loss. If you can, breastfeed longer than six months. 

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Eat A Minimum Of 1500-1800 Calories Daily

To maintain your breast milk supply, ensure that your daily caloric intake does not go below 1500 calories (17). Some mothers may need more calories depending on their body metabolism and breast milk demand. You don’t expect to go on the same diet with a mom of multiples. 

Gradually Decrease The Calories You Consume

A rapid and sudden drop in your calorie intake could affect your milk supply. Don’t shock your body-ease into your new diet. A sudden caloric decrease may cause your body to go into starvation mode, perhaps even cutting off your milk supply (9).

Stay Clear Of Quick-Fix Solutions

Dieting doesn’t mean that you deny yourself food to lose weight. Although aimed towards helping you lose weight, your diet should be balanced with all the essential nutrients present. A deficit in any of these nutrients could affect your milk supply and the quality of your milk as well. Avoid quick fixes such as weight loss medications or liquid diets.

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How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

Eating for two won’t get you your dream bikini body. Even though breastfeeding makes you hungry, it is not an excuse to gorge yourself on unhealthy foods. Your diet should be balanced, with moderate carbohydrates from fiber-rich sources. Additionally, you can reduce your food portions as long as you don’t see an effect on your milk supply. Eating too much, even with moderate carbs, will make you gain weight (22).

You should not eliminate carbs from your diet since you need the energy that they give. However, moderating the number of carbohydrates in your diet helps you lose weight faster. In addition, a moderate-carb high-fiber diet will help reduce your appetite, leading you to eat fewer calories which helps you to lose weight (21). Here are additional dieting tips to help you lose weight while breastfeeding.

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Increase Your Fruit And Vegetable Intake

Aim to get more calories from fruits and vegetables rather than from ultra-processed foods. You also stand to benefit from the numerous health benefits of fruits and vegetables (11). One simple way to include fruit in your diet is to start your day with a refreshing fruit smoothie.

 A healthy breakfast consisting of fruits such as bananas, berries, pawpaws, and mangoes is a great way to kickstart your day. Then, add on some almond milk and a handful of baby spinach for a nutrient-dense drink. 

What’s more, strive to include a serving of vegetables to go with your lunch and dinner. The idea is to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. If you need to snack, ditch the chocolate chip cookies and munch on a healthier option instead. Baby carrots make for great snack options.

To get maximum nutrients from your vegetables and fruits, eat them the way nature provided- raw. If you have to cook your veggies, steam for a short time to preserve their nutritional value (7). Only use low-fat or homemade dressing in your salads. Choose whole fruits over canned fruit drinks and juice boxes. Whole fruits contain fiber which helps keep you full for long periods. Juice boxes may have added sugars in them, elements you are trying to get rid of.

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Eat More Lean Protein

Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet. However, it is usually accompanied by more calories and fat. Lean protein is a healthier alternative. Apart from maintaining your tissues and muscles, protein also promotes satiety and may help with weight loss (19, 12). 

Opt for lean meat as it provides fewer calories for equal amounts of proteins than high-fat meat. Cuts of meat such as those from ribeye and T-bone have a high-fat content. Go for sirloin and round cuts instead. 

Other examples of lean protein you can include in your diet are plain Greek yogurt. Also, fish, skinless white meat poultry, and low-fat cottage cheese. Plant proteins are also an excellent addition to your diet. Some examples include beans, lentils, and peas.

Read More: Keto Diet And Breastfeeding: What Does The Research Say About It?

how to lose weight while breastfeeding
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Drink More Water

Imagine weight loss being as easy as increasing your water intake. So how does drinking more water burn fat? Here’s how:

  • Drinking water before taking a meal helps you feel fuller faster and prevents overeating(18). 
  • Water helps your kidneys filter out toxins.
  • It helps ease symptoms of constipation and bloating
  • Drinking water helps reduce overall liquid calorie intake. Instead of drinking soda or unhealthy juice boxes which are high in calories, drink water instead. You can add in a slice of lemon or some berries to enhance flavor (6). 
  • You need water to burn fat. Without water, your body cannot metabolize carbohydrates and fats properly. This process is called lipolysis and always begins with hydrolysis, where water molecules interact with fats to form glycerol and fatty acids (16, 15).
  • Water helps you to work out better. Exercise is an essential part of your weight loss journey. Furthermore, water helps your connective tissues, muscles, and joints to move correctly. Additionally, staying hydrated reduces the risk of fatigue and muscle cramps. 

Eat Healthy Fats

Eating fats and weight loss don’t seem to agree. Well, eating healthy fats is essential, not just for you but also for your breastfeeding baby. 

Fats are not bad for you. Your body needs fats to function. For example, you need fats to keep warm and absorb other nutrients (10). 

Incorporating sufficient amounts of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in your diet helps promote weight loss. This is an excellent alternative to the strict high-carb, low-fat diet that some women swear by (3).

Sources of healthy fats include nuts, avocados, flax seeds, olive oil, sunflower oil, and fish oil. Instead of using mayonnaise to dress your salads, drizzle a little bit of olive oil and enjoy.

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Exercise

Exercise and weight loss go hand in hand. Having a great diet is excellent and commendable, but you need exercise to tone and keep your muscles in shape. However, since you are a breastfeeding mom, proceed with moderation. Only exercise if you have a go-ahead from your doctor.

Additionally, listen to your body. If you feel that you aren’t healed properly, give yourself time.

With a breastfeeding baby, running long distances and going to the gym might not be ideal for now. To be safe, wait at least eight weeks before you can start an exercise regime. At this point, your body is healed relatively well. 

Nonetheless, there are plenty of safe exercises you can do to help you lose weight while breastfeeding. So take your time and ease into an exercise regimen. 

Cardiovascular Exercises For Weight Loss

As a nursing mum, you want to engage in low-impact exercises. There are several ways to get your heart rate up. They include:

  • Power walking. Take a walk around the block, pushing your baby in a stroller. It may seem like a leisure walk, but such an activity is enough to get your heart rate up. Walking also images muscles in your entire body, and you may soon start noticing a difference in your waistline. 
  • You can jog but at a slower rate. Avoid straining your body. Besides, your breasts are probably always full of milk, and running fast may seem uncomfortable. 
  • Swimming. Water aerobics may be the best form of exercise for you right now. Note that swimming in chlorinated water does not affect your milk supply. However, the water can dry your nipples, so remember to take a shower and moisturize your skin after you are done.

When it comes to weight loss, progress is made by inches, not miles, so it’s much harder to track and a lot easier to give up. BetterMe app is your personal trainer, nutritionist and support system all in one. Start using our app to stay on track and hold yourself accountable!

Lifting Weights

You can nurse and lift weights. Building muscles while nursing is possible, and surprisingly, encouraged. Once you get a thumbs up from your doctor, start slowly. Higher muscle mass increases your metabolism and fat-burning capabilities (14). For you to safely lose weight and build muscle while nursing, consider the following tips:

  • Timing. Plan your workout schedule around your baby’s nursing time. You don’t want to interrupt his/her feeding routine. This is also advantageous to you since working out with breasts full of milk is uncomfortable. 
  • Intensity. Start small; only lift weights you are comfortable with. This also includes the reps you do. Your muscle may become sore but will heal after a day or two. However, watch out for excessive muscle soreness, which could mean that you are straining.

Postpartum Workouts

Here are a few exercises you can try in the comfort of your house:

Wall Planks

This is a great workout to help you ease back to your regular exercise routine.

  1. Find a sturdy wall and stand facing it; your feet planted a step from the wall. 
  2. Rest your forearms against the wall to form a standing plank position. 
  3. Rotate your body out, retracting your shoulders in the process, making a side plank position. 
  4. Hold this position for two seconds, changing sides.
  5. Repeat for ten reps on each side.

Cat/Cows

This is an excellent exercise to work your core, back, and neck muscles. 

  1. Go on all fours with your shoulders directly above your hands and your hips below your knees. 
  2. Arch your back up and draw your navel in, engaging your belly muscles. This is the cat position. 
  3. Press your belly towards the ground, tilt your head, and gaze towards the sky. This is the cow position. 
  4. Alternate this position, making ten reps in total.

Conclusion

Losing weight after pregnancy can be challenging, but with consistency, it is doable. Coupled with a healthy diet, you can get back to your pre-baby body, or even better.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility.

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SOURCES:

  1. Adjustment in energy expenditure and substrate utilization during late pregnancy and lactation (1999, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Body shape and weight loss as motivators for breastfeeding initiation and continuation. (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Dietary composition, body weight, and NIDDM Comparison of high –fibre, high carbohydrate and modified fat diets (1995, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih)
  4. Dietary protein-its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Does whole grain consumption alter Gut microbiota and satiety (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Effect of replacing diet beverages with water on weight loss and weight maintenance: 18-month follow-up, randomized clinical trial (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Effects of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables (2017, ncbi.blm.nih.gov)
  8. Effects of maternal caloric restriction and exercise during lactation (1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Effects of short term caloric restriction on lactation performance of well-nourished women. (1986, pubmed.mcbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Functional role of fatty acids and their effects on human health (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  11. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. High protein foods and physical activity protect against age related muscle loss and functional decline (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. Impact of Breastfeeding on maternal metabolism : Implications for women with gestational diabetes (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  14. Increase muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Increased Hydration can be associated with weight loss (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  16. Negative , null and beneficial effects of drinking water on energy intake, energy expenditure, fat oxidation and weight change in randomized trials: a qualitative review (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  17. Nutrition recommendations in Pregnancy and lactation (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  18. Pre-meal water consumption for weight loss (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  19. Protein induced satiation and the calcium –sensing receptor (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  20. Sleep and obesity (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  21. The effect of low carbohydrate diet on appetite: A randomized controlled trial (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  22. What is the role of portion control in weight management (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
ZindzyGracia
ZindzyGracia

Zindzy is a freelance writer who specializes in creating web content in the health & wellness niche. The articles she writes focus on providing factual information – but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.
Her interest in health & wellness was sparked by her motherhood journey. She realized just how much damage misinformation could cause, especially when it is targeted at new moms who are keen on postpartum weight loss.
So for years, she has worked hard to demystify the seemingly complex concepts of health & wellness. Eventually, she made one startling discovery that she wishes to share with all – there is no short cut. Consistency and hard work are the keys to a healthy mind and body.
But, writing is not all she does. Being a mother to an energetic toddler means her free time is spent exploring the outdoors, arms laden with cotton candy and toys. Through the daily intrigues of work and play, she continues to discover and share more ways to keep fit and stay healthy!

K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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