Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC
I’m not sure why they call it baby weight. Those extra pounds that you put on during pregnancy are still hanging around even after you give birth to the baby. They should call it breastfeeding weight. One of the primary reasons that a woman puts on extra weight during pregnancy is that the stored fat helps fuel milk production.
Weight loss is a very popular benefit of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns calories. Depending on how much milk you produce, it can burn close to 1000 calories a day. It’s not a magic wand, though. There are things a woman can do to help or hinder the weight loss process.
FACTORS THAT IMPACT POST PREGNANCY WEIGHT LOSS
It’s wise to remember that every woman is different. How quickly a mom loses baby weight is affected by:
- How much weight she gained during her pregnancy
- Her diet
- Her level of physical activity
The good news is that a woman has control over all of these.
REALISTIC WEIGHT LOSS EXPECTATIONS
It’s important to remember that it took nine months to gain all that weight. It’s going to take some time to lose it.
Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race. It is a cliché, but one that is true. Reducing calorie intake by about 500 calories per day will result in losing about 1 pound per week without resulting in decreased milk production (Source). Research has shown that the combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose pregnancy weight (Source). Your body will be different after having a baby. Your clothes may fit differently, even when you get back to your pre-pregnant weight.
MAINTAINING MILK PRODUCTION WHILE LOSING PREGNANCY WEIGHT
A common concern many moms have is maintaining their milk supply while losing weight. It’s best to wait until your milk supply is established before starting your weight loss program. For most moms, this will be at 6-8 weeks. Although cutting more than 500 calories a day will speed up weight loss, it is not advised. Severe calorie restrictions can affect milk supply. This is especially true when the calorie-cutting is sudden.
Not eating enough also can contribute to fatigue in a nursing mom. Who needs that? Most new moms already struggle with getting enough sleep. These tips will help ensure continued abundant milk production as well as weight loss and good
TIPS FOR A HEALTHY DIET
- Food prep once a week.
- Slice up your favorite veggies and put them in reusable containers or plastic
- Find a friend to do this with to make it go faster. Or at least it might seem to go more quickly. It will definitely be more fun.If you have more money than time you can buy a lot of fruits and veggies already cut up. Nursing moms get hungry.
Strategically locate healthy snacks:
- At your breastfeeding station
- In your breastfeeding basket
- In your purse
- In your diaper bag
- In your car
- At your bedside
Ten healthy snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated:
- Roasted chickpeas
- Nut butter packets
- Dried fruit
- Seaweed snacks
- Baked veggie chips
- Fruit leather
- Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein. This is essential for maintaining
energy levels. Protein also helps boost metabolism (Source).
- Eat high-fiber foods
Start your day off with a breakfast smoothie made with oatmeal, flax, and some green veggies like spinach or kale. It will give you energy and fiber. Using a protein powder like Milk Dust helps support milk production.
These power-packed drinks aren't just for breakfast. Having a smoothie for lunch is a great option for busy moms.
WATER AND WEIGHT LOSS
It is essential to keep well hydrated. It helps you make milk. It also helps your body function properly. And drinking one liter of water a day is associated with weight loss (Source). One of my favorite tips for breastfeeding moms is to fill several water bottles every morning and place them around the house wherever you might be. Since you will often be holding your baby,
this gives you one less thing to try to juggle. Put one in the car and one in your diaper bag and one in your purse.
EXERCISE AND BREASTFEEDING
Start exercising once you are cleared by your health care provider. Exercising, in combination with dieting, will help shed those pregnancy pounds. Choosing an exercise program that involves resistance training as well as aerobic activity is beneficial in not only helping you lose weight. It has also been shown to slow bone loss when a woman is breastfeeding (Source).
A study dispelled the belief that babies didn't like the taste of their mom's milk after exercise (Source). With a plan and patience, you’ll be rocking a post-baby body before you know it.