How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Without Affecting Milk Supply
One of the most common questions breastfeeding moms ask themselves is “how to lose weight while breastfeeding without losing supply?”
Being able to breastfeed your baby is beneficial in so many ways. It provides ideal nutrition for babies and it also provides health benefits for mothers beyond emotional satisfaction. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not easy for every mom. While some mothers breastfeed until their babies have grown into toddlers, others may struggle. Not surprisingly, some women expect breastfeeding to be easy, but then find themselves faced with challenges.
That being said, it is important to note that extremely restrictive diets may affect milk supply and cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may lead eventually to weight gain. This is why it is so important to eat a healthy and balanced diet, especially while breastfeeding and when trying to lose weight.
So if you want to lose weight while breastfeeding your bundle of joy, the last thing you want to happen is a reduction in your breast milk supply caused by a poor diet.
In this article, I’m going to cover all things losing weight while breastfeeding and focus on the best tips on how to safely lose weight while breastfeeding without losing supply.
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Fast?
If you want to lose weight while breastfeeding quickly, you need to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, and you can’t go back to your old habits. So what is the best diet to lose weight as fast as possible?
Unfortunately, there is no magic solution. While it is essential that you adjust your daily way of eating and exercising consistently, you can use some tips to maximize your weight loss and the first one is to keep breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Moms Lose Weight Faster
As reported by La Leche League GB, breastfeeding moms tend to lose more weight when their babies are 3-6 months old than formula-feeding mothers who consume fewer calories.
Breastfeeding Burns Calories! Good news!
I personally met a few moms who lost that extra weight by breastfeeding only, which really makes sense because there is a strong connection between breastfeeding and weight loss. When you’re pregnant, biology kicks in and helps you build up a reserve of weight that’s beneficial to both you and your baby. After you’ve given birth, it then helps you lose it by breastfeeding.
While it worked for a few moms postpartum, it didn’t work for me. I was breastfeeding both of my kids (for more than a year!) and I didn’t lose weight just by breastfeeding, clearly, it’s just because I ate more than I used to before I was pregnant. My body was working hard to produce nutritious milk for my babies and I felt the need to eat and especially drink more, which probably caused me not to lose weight by just breastfeeding. So if you feel like me, keep reading because there are definitely more things you can do to lose weight while breastfeeding without losing your milk supply. But before we move on to them, let’s find out how many calories does breastfeeding burn?
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Your body generally burns between 200 to 500 extra calories a day while you’re breastfeeding. These are the additional calories per day that are recommended for breastfeeding moms. Compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy – approximately 1,800 to 2,000 cal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who are not breastfeeding versus 2,300 to 2,500 cal per day for breastfeeding women.
From this, we can learn that those moms who lose weight only by breastfeeding, are not adding these extra 200-500 to their daily diet and therefore they lose weight while breastfeeding. While this means that you only need to not add these extra calories to lose weight while breastfeeding, a question pops up – will this affect your breast milk production? Clearly, it didn’t affect at all, or at least not significantly, those moms who lost weight and continued breastfeeding. Which is great right? Because maybe it can work for you too. With this question in mind, let’s see how you can cut those calories safely while providing your body with all the nutrients it needs to successfully produce quality breast milk for your baby and what other things can help.
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Safely?
Most experts don’t advocate dieting while breastfeeding. That’s because your body needs extra fuel to make breast milk. According to La Leche League, breastfeeding moms should consume at least 1800 calories a day and can safely lose around 1 lb per week. For some, consuming 1800 calories per day does not allow much room for weight loss by cutting calories however, you can pair dieting with exercise to promote weight loss at a safe pace.
If you want to follow this weight loss strategy and cut the extra calories you need to eat while breastfeeding, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that your body gets all the vitamins, and minerals it needs to continue producing quality breast milk. To do this, there are 2 steps you need to follow:
First, talk to a dietitian – The number of extra calories a breastfeeding mom needs depends on how much body weight has been put on during pregnancy, how much breast milk she is producing, her body size, percentage of body fat, and how active she is. Therefore, the best thing to do before starting any diet while breastfeeding is to consult your doctor and dietitian that can help you determine your recommended daily calorie intake based on your age, metabolism, and levels of physical activity, among other things.
Second, take postnatal multivitamins – Many of us don’t get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our food. When you also cut the extra calories your body needs while breastfeeding, taking postnatal multivitamins will make sure your body gets all it needs to produce high-quality breast milk for your baby. This is especially important if your baby is exclusively breastfeeding and under the age of six months because your breastmilk is the only food your baby gets – and you must make sure it is full of nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. If you haven’t bought postnatal multivitamins yet – get Ritual here – which is one of the best postnatal multivitamins on the market today.
Ritual Postnatal Multivitamins
This bottle of vitamins has everything you need postpartum and when breastfeeding, which makes it the ultimate supplement when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding. It contains 15 nutrients in total; including Omega-3 DHA to help support the fatty acid content of breast milk in lactating women, Iodine, and nature-identical Biotin and Choline to support women’s increased nutrient requirements during lactation, and vitamins A, C, D3, and Zinc to help support normal immune function. Make sure to provide your body with all the essential vitamins when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding. Read more information about Ritual postnatal multivitamins on their site here.
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Without Losing Supply – Do’s and Don’ts
Once you have a good diet plan and you know what your recommended daily calorie intake should be, you can start tracking your progress while making sure breastfeeding goes well on a diet. Here are some tips, do’s and don’ts to help you on your way! If you need a printable diet planner to help you with the tracking – get our downloadable planner here.
When to start
After giving birth, it is best to focus on finding a good milk supply and setting up a breastfeeding routine before trying to lose weight. Your body will also need time to recover from childbirth. You probably will need to wait at least two months and then plan a gradual weight loss. Slowly losing weight is healthier for you, your baby, and your milk production. Healthy weight loss is 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per week; do not exaggerate when you breastfeed. Remember, it’s better to lose weight slowly and healthily to avoid gaining it all back later.
Here are a few tips on how to speed up postpartum recovery.
Avoid Vitamins Deficiency
A well-balanced diet should fulfill most of your nutrient needs. This way you can lose weight safely while breastfeeding.
If you can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you do, the answer may not always be to push yourself to work harder or eat less. It could be that you need to address a vitamin deficiency. This is another reason why adding a few safe vitamin supplements like Ritual can provide the extra boost you need to stay on track with your healthy weight loss regimen while breastfeeding.
According to HIH, breastfeeding women have been noted to be at particularly high risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to increased vitamin B12 and nutritional demands of the mother, the fetus and the infant during this period. It’s interesting to know because vitamin B12 deficiency turns up often the reason why some individuals struggle to lose weight. So if you can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you do, make sure to visit your doctor to take blood tests after pregnancy to make sure there is no vitamin deficiency that you don’t know about.
Does breastfeeding seem to make you thirsty? Well, I was thirsty all the time when I was breastfeeding! Drinking water is extremely important when breastfeeding because it helps breast milk production. Not only this, but drinking water regularly can also help you lose weight.
Breastfeeding moms should drink about 16 glasses of water every day. The amount can vary because you can get water from different foods like fruits and veggies as well. One way to help you get the fluids you need is to drink a large glass of water each time you breastfeed your baby.
Another way that makes it even easier is to get this 1 Gallon Water Bottle with times to drink from Amazon – it contains 128 oz – which is around 16 cups of water you should drink a day while breastfeeding – which means that you need to drink one bottle of water every day.
Drinking lots of water is something that I’m trying to do in general and especially when I’m on a diet trying to lose weight. And guess what, it works! It leads to a feeling of fullness and reduces hunger. It also helps you feel more energized, and even when I was breastfeeding, I noticed that after I was drinking a lot of water, my body was producing more breast milk. So this is definitely a tip that you shouldn’t miss. Drinking a lot of water is a must-do when trying to lose weight while breastfeeding.
After the first time I gave birth, I was surprised to see that even after a few days my belly was still looking like I was pregnant. I thought to myself… WHAT?! Will this even get back to normal?
Then I realized that not only that my belly looked terrible, but I also had involuntary leaking of urine that occurred every time I was sneezing, coughing, or exercising (especially jumping, running, etc.).
To be honest, I hated the pelvic floor exercises, I just felt so weird lying on the floor with a group of women who looked like they are doing nothing during the pregnancy yoga workouts. But after giving birth and occasionally leaking urine I realized that I had no choice, these pelvic floor exercises are a must!
So my point here is that trying to only lose weight while breastfeeding to get back to shape is just not enough. Your body is not the same as it was before pregnancy, your muscles are loose (I used to have a flat tummy!), and if you have Diastasis Recti which is a common condition that occurs when the rectus abdominis muscles separate during pregnancy from being stretched, your belly may stick out or bulge months or years postpartum. So if you want to lose weight and get back into shape while breastfeeding, the first thing you need to do is build up all the weakened muscles that will not only make you feel stronger but also make you look good.
According to Mayoclicin, if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal delivery, it’s generally safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth or as soon as you feel ready. Otherwise, talk to your healthcare provider about when to start an exercise program.
If you have any diastasis recti concerns, you may want to ask your physiotherapist to check your tummy muscles.
Postpartum Workouts That Work
While there are many exercises you can do to help you lose weight and get back in shape, I found that riding my bicycle was by far the best workout I did for my belly and in general the lower part of my body. And believe me, I tried many exercises, like pilates, yoga, walking, running, functional workouts, and more. There is something about riding bikes that works directly on your stomach muscles and stretches them back into place. After riding my bicycle for two months, 2 hours every week, my belly started to be flat again. There is the cat position in which you stand on your knees and hands and look at your belly – if your muscles are weakened your belly looks loose and bloated, but after riding bikes – my tummy muscles were stretched again, and finally, my belly looked flat.
Now don’t get me wrong, other exercises helped me feel better and overall look better, but if you want to get your flat tummy back – riding a bike is what you need! And if this is not enough, in addition to your abdominal muscles, riding bikes also works on your butt (gluteal muscles), thighs (quad muscles), and legs in general (including hamstrings), and improves your coordination.
I use this kind of bicycle but you can ride any bicycles you want as long as you feel comfortable (not electric bikes!). I have another good mom friend that also used to ride with me and she bought this wide seat for her bike which she found very comfortable. You can even get yourself a home stationary indoor cycling bike such as this #1 Amazon Best Seller and exercise in the comfort of your home which I think is even better!
How to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles?
Kegel exercise is the best exercise to help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises can help make the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel stronger. Here is a great video for beginners:
When you are breastfeeding, you want to avoid any diet that includes diet pills or other supplements that may affect your breast milk production. These weight loss methods are not valid because they can affect your health and/or your energy level (and mothers all know that you need all the energy you can get with a little bit of fun!) And they can also reduce your milk production. If you’re wondering how you can fall off while breastfeeding, it’s best to follow a healthy, balanced diet and consume the number of calories you need, based on your height and weight.
Losing weight when breastfeeding depends largely on healthy eating habits. Keep the following tips in mind every day:
- Avoid fried and fast foods as much as possible
- Portion control – eat only until you feel full
- Aim for nutritious and filling foods (foods that are high in fiber, whole-grain foods, protein, etc.)
- Make your food in healthy ways such as broiling, steaming, baking, etc.
- Make healthier food choices (for example, switching from whole milk dairy products to light or non-fat versions, choose lean meats, etc.)
- Reduce intake of sugary foods and less processed foods.
- Aim for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and nuts
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Avoid eating before bed
- Don’t skip meals
- Eat more frequently
- Rest when you can
- Drink a lot of water.
Are Low Carb Diets Safe While Breastfeeding?
Low carb diets such as Atkins or Paleo method are compatible with breastfeeding as long as you consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins to ensure sufficient nutrition. Eliminating unhealthy carbs can be very helpful for many moms because they generally cause us to feel hungrier and eat more.
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Remember that if you stick to healthy eating, regular exercise, and patience, you will see the weight disappear. Have in mind that it is healthier to gradually lose weight. Your body has done a fantastic thing, it built a home for your little one for nine months, so it has been through a lot! Just give it time to recover and don’t be surprised if that takes a while.
Printable Meal Planner
Looking for a printable meal planner to download? Download our Printable Meal Planner Template to quickly and easily plan out your weekly meals.