Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC
So many moms are told the weight will just fall off while breastfeeding. But what happens when you can't lose the weight while breastfeeding? Weight loss is frequently mentioned as one of the awesome breastfeeding benefits for mom after gaining all that pregnancy weight. A lot of moms do lose weight while breastfeeding, but more often then not, new moms are left wondering, "why can't I lose the weight while breastfeeding?"
There are MANY factors that come into play for weight loss while breastfeeding. The amount of breast milk produced, hormone levels, thyroid levels, metabolism and diet changes can significantly affect weight loss as a breastfeeding mom. Let's get into these issues, and how you can combat them to help you actually lose the pregnancy weight while breastfeeding.
Simple steps to take right away, when you can't lose the weight while breastfeeding:
- Track your calorie consumption for at least three days. See where you may be eating more calories than you think
- Add in more steps/walking to increase activity and daily calorie burn (walking is safe after birth for most women)
- Eat more lean protein and less carbohydrates (AKA have a Milk Dust smoothie as one meal each day!)
- Focus on nutrient dense foods for every meal and snack, rather than sugar or processed snacks
- Have a fruit/veggie and lean protein at every meal or snack
- Lift weights a few times a week to help maintain muscle and promote metabolism
Following this simple
Many Breastfeeding Moms Overestimate The Calories Breastfeeding Actually Burns
Simply, this is one of the top reasons nursing moms can't lose weight. Experts say that on AVERAGE breastfeeding burns around 500 calories. Because this is an AVERAGE, we know that many moms burn more, and many burn less. If you aren't losing weight, you could be on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the calories you personally burn while breastfeeding. Hunger cues and calories burned sometimes don't match up. Many breastfeeding moms experience more hunger, which is due to many things, not just the extra calories being burned. Hunger can result from lack of sleep and lack of nutrients, not just more calories being burned. If you only burn an extra 250 calories a day, and you are eating an extra 500 calories a day, you will end up gaining weight while breastfeeding.
Milk Dust is a great tool for moms who are struggling to lose the baby weight because it helps with feeling full, and reducing sugar cravings that often cause many mamas to eat more than necessary. Milk Dust also provides the essential nutrients moms need to help their bodies feel fully nourished, and not need to signal for more food. Many times our bodies signal for food because of nutrient deficiencies, which Milk Dust is formulated to fight against!
What kind of diet can help weight loss while breastfeeding?
When you are breastfeeding, you have to be careful so that the rate at which you lose weight and the methods you use do not interfere with producing an adequate milk supply for your baby. The key is to ensure your body is getting the proper nutrients, through healthy whole foods, rather than just the right amount of calories. Many breastfeeding mamas focus on eating more food in general, rather than nutrient-dense foods. Sugar cravings also tend to plague breastfeeding mamas, which is why Milk Dust is an awesome nutritional support product that helps curb those sugar cravings. Milk Dust has a great, free, 10-day program to help you get off the sugar all together.
Exercise and diet are the safest paths to weight loss. Breastfeeding moms have unique challenges with both. Most breastfeeding moms have more trouble fitting in exercise, than with exercise itself. That being said, there are other issues that can pop up during exercise for breastfeeding mamas.
A breastfeeding mom needs to make sure she is eating nutritious foods, so she has the building blocks to produce enough milk for her baby. You should avoid diets that restrict entire groups of food. Milk Dust is an amazing nutritional supplement full of protein, vitamins and herbs to support a healthy milk supply. Smoothies are such a fast way to incorporate a fully, nutrient-dense meal in very quickly. The new Milk Dust Bars are also a great, quick snack full of nutrients, protein and healthy herbs to support milk supply.
Nursing mothers also should avoid trying to restrict calories too much. That can not only result in a decreased milk supply, but it can make losing weight harder. When a person’s body thinks it is not getting enough food, it can react by slowing down the rate of metabolism. The result can be a decrease in weight loss or even weight gain. A great way to combat this is to fill your plate with fruits, veggies and lean protein. Most of these foods will give your body plenty of nutrients, so milk supply won't be a problem, but still keep your overall calorie count low enough to burn fat. Win win!
How to use exercise when you can't lose the weight while breastfeeding
Exercising is a great tool to help a breastfeeding mom who is struggling to lose weight while breastfeeding. Exercise has a lot of benefits for breastfeeding mamas outside of weight loss.
Exercise will increase total calorie burn for new moms, which is key for weight loss. Often times, a new baby and breastfeeding reduces daily activity because there is a lot of sitting and holding a newborn. Add in complete exhaustion, and many new moms end up burning less calories than when they were pregnant. Adding in daily walks, some light weight lifting and more intense workouts down the road will increase total calorie burn for the day, as well as build muscle and speed up metabolism. This can be just the boost a breastfeeding mother needs when trying to get that weight to budge!
Working out with a newborn is very difficult, but you can skip the stroller and put baby in a carrier! This ads extra weight, allows baby to feel comfortable and helps keep your activity level up. Throw in some squats and lunges, and you can build some muscle at the same time.
Some other great workouts are Pilates, Yoga and biking because they are low impact. Low impact is the best starting place when you are still healing from birth. Of course make sure you have clearance from your doctor.
Sometimes pumping plays a role in why you aren't losing weight while nursing
A study published in 2014 showed that women who did not exclusively breastfeed did not see any weight loss benefit (Source).
While some of the breastfeeding benefits for baby are present even with mixed feeding, it does appear that for weight loss, exclusive breastfeeding is the way to go. Babies are able to stimulate more milk through sucking, and there are chemical factors with skin to skin that can't be replicated with a pump.
Postpartum hormones can affect your weight loss efforts too
Research is showing that it is not as simple as calories in and calories out. Hormones affect how our bodies process food, and when we store fat.
Certain foods can cause spikes in insulin. Insulin promotes the storage of fat. Avoiding foods that are high in sugar or highly processed will help keep your insulin at healthy levels.
Cortisol is another hormone that is a big player in the weight loss game. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. It is the rare mom who isn’t feeling stressed.
Stress raises cortisol levels. Persistently high cortisol levels tell the body to make glucose. The extra glucose gets converted into fat, and the fat ends up getting stored. High cortisol levels can also result in cravings for sugary and high-calorie foods. That is why we crave comfort foods when we are stressed. They make us feel better because of hormones.
Popular Dieting Methods That Are Off Limits
Intermittent fasting is gaining in popularity as a way to lose weight as well as having a long list of health benefits. However, a breastfeeding mama is making milk all the time. Having long stretches of time where she is having absolutely no caloric intake whatsoever can tank her milk supply. If you've practiced intermittent fasting before, and your body is accustomed to it, there could be no issues. But, if you've never done fasting, it may be a good idea to try when you are done breastfeeding.
If you find that your weight loss efforts have resulted in you making less milk, the good news is that once your milk supply is established, it should come back if you make some adjustments. This post is a great read if you need to get your milk supply back up again.
Be patient with your weight loss goals. It took nine months to gain the weight. It will take time to lose it.