Congratulations! You have a bouncing baby and are breastfeeding. That’s the good news. The bad news? Now you want to fit back into your snazzy pre-pregnancy clothing but aren’t sure how to do so while keeping up your milk supply. Here are some tips on how to sensibly lose weight while breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Itself Aids Weight Loss
Studies show that breastfeeding moms lose their “baby weight” faster and more easily than moms who choose formula feeding. Why? Did you know that during pregnancy your body puts on 9 pounds just for the purpose of lactation? It’s like nature’s little insurance policy, ensuring that you will be able to draw from fat stores to produce milk in case food sources are scarce. This means that if you don’t breastfeed, your body has to work harder to lose that extra weight.
Experts point out that breastfeeding burns around 500 calories a day. So even if you don’t diet or exercise, your body will burn more calories than a non-lactating woman. Breastfeeding moms usually find that they experience increased hunger and thirst in the first weeks of nursing while their milk supply is being established. This is the body’s wisdom and it’s a good idea to listen to it.
Sensible Eating While Breastfeeding
There is no danger in losing weight slowly while breastfeeding. However crash diets or extreme diets that exclude entire food groups are not appropriate for nursing moms. Calorie counts of less than 1800 calories have shown in some studies to reduce milk supply. Nursing moms should eat to hunger and drink to thirst. Weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is safest. Remember that if your nutrition profile or calorie intake is too low, your body will pull nutrients from your own stores to make milk. Eating well is in your best interest as well as baby’s.
A breastfeeding mother should eat a healthy, whole foods diet and avoid junk foods and hydrogenated fats (“trans fats” reduce the quality of fats in mom’s milk). It’s also a good idea to avoid excessive amounts of sugar, which will add empty calories.
Exercise With Baby
Unlike celebrities moms, it’s admittedly not easy for any ordinary women to adopt a new exercise program after baby. Life with a newborn is surprisingly busy, and mom may feel plenty of aches and pains left over from pregnancy – as well as fatigue from interrupted sleep.
A breastfeeding mom still has loose joints from the hormone relaxin, present in her body before birth. This means it’s easier for a new mom to injure herself if she isn’t careful. One of the best and safest exercises for a new mom is walking. Babies generally love the change of scenery and motion of walking outdoors, many moms have found that a fussy or colicky baby in particular is soothed in this way. Put baby in a stroller and head outside. Or better yet, use a soft cloth baby carrier to add some resistance and burn extra calories!
Shoot for a daily walk of 1-2 miles at a leisurely pace, working up to a brisk pace as you feel ready. This is a wonderful way to boost the metabolism, burn calories and generally feel better about your body postpartum. Studies show that daily exercise and time spent outdoors in sunlight also helps prevent or cure a case of the blues, which for some moms can proceed into full blown postpartum depression.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the safe time to resume exercise. This will vary depending on your activity level before and during pregnancy, and the birth experience you had.
For extra motivation and accountability, team up with a fellow mom or a group of moms to walk with. Check out local gyms, community centers and groups like “stroller moms” for exercise programs for new moms.
It took you 9 months to build and grow a life in your body with accompanying weight gain. Why expect yourself to drop that extra weight overnight? Give yourself time. 6 months is a good goal. This time frame allows you to lose the weight slowly, which is more sustainable long term and less likely to harm your metabolism. Reject the images of celebrity moms with seemingly instantaneous weight loss after baby. Hollywood types have a team of people: nannies, chefs, housekeepers, fashion consultants and the like to rely on. For real moms, it takes time.