Pregnant women hear it constantly, “Don't worry! Breastfeeding will help you slim down in no time.” However, this may not always be the case. Shedding those pregnancy pounds can actually take some time, especially if you want to reach your pre-baby weight in the healthiest way possible.
If you are not slimming down while breastfeeding, you may think you're doing something wrong, but the truth is, you’re not alone in this battle. Even though much of the breastfeeding buzz centers around its waist-slimming virtues, many women have reported a struggle in losing their post-baby weight during their time breastfeeding. Some studies even show it can take, at a minimum, the length of a full-term pregnancy to get a new mom’s physique back to its pre-pregnancy shape--and yes, even while breastfeeding.
While many women have experienced weight loss during their time breastfeeding (breastfeeding help women burn up to 500 calories a day), there are various reasons why women may experience a weight loss struggle--or worse, weight gain--while nursing their child. Know the facts.
15 The Truth About Breastfeeding and Weight Loss
When it comes to breastfeeding and losing weight, it’s hard to tell what is fact and what is myth. So, is breastfeeding the surefire way to fit back into your regular clothes post-baby?
The answer: both yes and no.
Research does support that breastfeeding can help new moms slim down, however, it may not be as easy as you think. With a healthy lifestyle plan, you will get back to your pre-pregnancy weight; it may just take longer than anticipated. And, while breastfeeding can assist in helping a new mom lose weight, mothers should never rely solely on breastfeeding to do the job.
14 Breastfeeding to Lose Weight
Not only is the idea of breastfeeding to “get slim” somewhat misleading, but it can overshadow the real meaning of why you’re doing it--nurturing your child in the most beautiful and healthy way possible.
Additionally, if you’re focusing too much on losing weight while breastfeeding, it could affect the wellbeing of both you and baby. For example, crash diets and rapid weight loss present problems for breastfeeding mothers. Environmental contaminants, including PCBs and pesticides, are stored in body fat, and losing weight rapidly can release these contaminants into the mother's bloodstream. While there's no evidence to support that this can increase contaminant levels in a mother's breast milk, rapid weight loss, in general, is not safe for a nursing mother.
Most moms can safely lose up to 1.5 lbs per week or 6 lbs pounds per month after the second month while breastfeeding.
If you’re breastfeeding and losing weight too quickly, beware of the following:
- Rapid weight loss during breastfeeding could negatively impact your nutrition and/or health
- Increased level of environmental contaminants in your bloodstream
- Reduced milk supply for baby
- Reduced energy for nursing
13 Your Hormones are Changing
If you’re breastfeeding and not losing weight, don’t get too discouraged. There are several likely culprits of why you may be experiencing this.
It’s no secret that while you are breastfeeding, your hormones are very active. Prolactin, the protein hormone that is responsible for breast milk production, can increase your appetite. During pregnancy, prolactin levels increase by 10 to 20 times. After your baby is born, prolactin stays high if you are breastfeeding, so it makes sense that breastfeeding mothers will find themselves eating more often than they usually would.
Prolactin can also prevent weight loss because it has an impact in reducing the body's metabolism of fat. Raised prolactin levels in a woman who is not pregnant or breastfeeding reduces lipid (fat) metabolism. Not only that but pregnant women's bodies automatically layer on extra fatty tissue--upwards of 8 lbs--so they will have enough fat stored to begin breastfeeding.
12 You’re Not Eating Enough
Breastfeeding can help women burn a significant amount of calories per day. It is estimated that between 300-500 calories are burned per day, depending on the age of your baby and if they are exclusively breastfeeding.
However, if you’re not eating enough during your time breastfeeding, it will affect your metabolism by slowing it down. For example, when you eat less food than your body needs, your internal fuel burner (your metabolism) will scale back to conserve energy. This will cause your body to use less energy to maintain your weight, potentially stalling weight loss. So, in essence, the more you fuel your body with healthy and nutritious food, the more it will benefit your metabolism by helping you reach your post-baby goal weight sooner.
11 You’re Eating Too Much
It’s certainly normal for breastfeeding women to constantly feel hungry, and just like not eating enough, eating too much can also contribute to an unhealthy change in body weight. When you eat too much at one time, your parasympathetic nervous system tells your metabolism to slow down to focus on digesting the food. The slower your metabolism, the harder it is to maintain a healthy body weight.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in fiber, protein, and fat will not only assist in shedding those pregnancy pounds faster, but it will also provide necessary nutrients to your breastfed baby. Eating small, nutritious meals more frequently throughout the day will ensure you’re not only maintaining a healthy eating pattern, but it will also sustain your energy for nursing your little one.
10 You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Staying hydrated when it comes to shedding pounds is important, and especially if you’re breastfeeding. A breastfeeding mother should follow this simple hydration pattern: if you use more fluid, you must take more in.
By keeping yourself hydrated, you will not only stay revitalized, but you will also avoid overeating. Why? Believe it or not, many people confuse thirst for hunger. Additionally, when you’re dehydrated, your kidneys can’t function to their best ability, so the body turns to the liver for additional support. When the liver is overworked, more of the fat you consume is stored rather than burned off.
9 You’re Sleep Deprived
Whether you are breastfeeding or not, sleep deprivation can affect your waistline, having you crave more carbohydrates to restore the energy you’ve lost. That’s why for breastfeeding mothers, sleep is extremely important in maintaining a healthy weight. Think about it: breastfeeding mothers use a lot of energy to nurse their children, so this energy must be restored naturally through sleep.
Moreover, a decrease in sleep, typical of just about every new mom, can cause your metabolism to slow by bringing forth a hormonal change that can interfere with your hunger signals. This change can immediately lead to mother’s craving less nutritious meal options that are high in carbohydrates.
8 You’re Stressed
It’s normal for new moms to be under more stress than usual, however, it is important to control your levels of stress for not only the health of yourself but for your baby as well. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol--a steroid hormone that functions to increase blood sugar to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. In other words, if a breastfeeding mother becomes overly stressed, she could see some unwanted weight gain.
Additionally, a lack of sleep--as mentioned previously--will put an immense amount of stress on a breastfeeding mother’s body. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the stress hormone cortisol will stay in your body rather than being removed at night during the restorative sleep process.
7 You’re Not Energized
An exclusively breastfed baby who is nursing every hour can put a greater calorie demand on his mom than one who is nursing just a few times a day. We aren’t saying avoid nursing your baby, but we just want you to keep in mind that it may affect the time it takes to lose your post-baby weight.
For example, you may notice that once your baby gets older and begins to eat solid foods, in combination with breastfeeding, you will start to lose the weight you thought you would at the beginning of your breastfeeding time. Likewise, any baby who is being supplemented with formula will also require less milk production and therefore calorie demand from his mother.
6 You’re Not Active Enough
In the first few months postpartum, most moms are less active than usual. Bonding with your baby as well as waking up more often to nurse can certainly interfere with your pre-baby workout routine, leaving you less motivated to stay on top of physical activity.
While many new mothers will see no relation with being stagnant and having trouble losing their post-baby weight, there are some who will have more trouble, especially if their bodies are accustomed to moving around. Additionally, if your baby requires frequent feeding sessions, you may feel like all you’re doing is sitting down instead getting in some exercise.
5 You’re Not Motivated
Many new moms rely solely on breastfeeding to lose their pregnancy weight. The truth is, however, without any motivation, your weight loss goal could be more difficult to reach.
If you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, you’ll need to tailor a plan to fit your body and your lifestyle. Once you’ve gathered together a plan, you must remain motivated in order to reach your goals.
Here are some tips on how to stay motivated as a new mom:
- Write down your reason for wanting to lose weight
- Set realistic and achievable goals
- Surround yourself with positivity
- Ask for help; don’t be afraid to take some time away from baby
- Don’t be a perfectionist
- Be patient
- Recommit yourself every day
4 You’re Not Meal Planning
Always remember that you’re breastfeeding, so you will likely need to plan for restoring energy more often. As mentioned, a lack of energy will leave you stressed and hungry where you will likely resort to a meal option that is quick but not necessarily nutritious. The more you plan your meals ahead, the easier it will be to energize yourself with healthy options.
Here are some tips for healthy meal planning as a new mom:
- While baby is sleeping, prepare fresh fruit and veggies to snack on throughout the day
- Search for healthy recipes and have your partner help with cooking
- Cook in abundance to plan for leftovers
- Keep a meal journal
- Choose a shopping day and make a shopping list
Keep in mind that you should be avoiding fatty and processed foods and opt for fresh choices instead. Your positive affirmations to eat healthier will, in time, result in a thinner physique.
3 You’re Being Impatient
Although every new mom is eager to look like her old self again, one of the most important things to remember is to be patient. Sure, Hollywood moms might go straight from the delivery room back into their size 0 jeans, but they may not have done it in a way that was healthy for their bodies.
Take a moment to focus on what you can do today to move toward your end goal. Your post-pregnancy weight loss plan should be realistic and safe. As we mentioned earlier, losing weight too quickly can affect the wellbeing of both you and your baby.
2 You Need More Support
Weight loss success requires support from those closest to you. We get it: as a new mom, you’re going to be busy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. By asking your family members to help with meal planning, or caring for your child to sneak in a 30-minute workout, you allow yourself the much needed alone time to revitalize both your body and your mind.
It’s important to communicate your wish to be the healthiest version of yourself, so those around you can support your wellness goals. If that fails, don’t be afraid to eliminate the things (or people) that bring you down, create added stress, or cause you to second-guess your abilities to succeed.
1 You’ve Given Up
If you’re not losing weight during your time breastfeeding, don’t give up. The truth is, every human body is different, and it could take more time for you to see results. What may work for one woman may not necessarily work for you.
In addition, many women who do not lose weight immediately often get discouraged, which could, in fact, contribute to them gaining weight. Think about it: the more frustrated you are with not meeting your weight loss goals, the more prone you are to giving up on them completely. That’s why it’s important to keep at it. If you stay on top of your daily calorie intake and healthy eating options, you will be able to shed your baby weight at a pace that is healthy for your body.