Breastfeeding & Pumping

Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight?

Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight?

Most new moms have a lot of things that make them feel stressed, and losing the extra pounds from pregnancy tends to be high on that list. First, it’s important to remember that the weight wasn’t gained overnight, so it won’t magically disappear. Two, your body just created a human, so that is pretty amazing! 

There have been many myths told about being a breastfeeding mom and that you can easily lose all of the baby weight simply by breastfeeding. While breastfeeding most certainly burns calories, it also takes additional calories coming in so that your body can maintain strength for you and milk supply for your baby! 

How Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight

It has been found that exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months can have at least a small effect on losing pregnancy weight. A new mom’s body burns around 300-500 calories per day. You definitely want to make sure you are pairing this with proper nutrition so that you are taking in enough calories to keep your energy level up for yourself and your new baby. 

This is not a good time to look into drastically reducing the number of calories you bring in by going on a crash diet or trying to supplement with meal-replacement shakes. This can cause the body to go into a survival mode and can end up negatively impacting your milk supply. Losing extra weight can be an overall health goal, but you don’t want to risk losing your milk supply or being so drained that your quality of life begins to suffer. 

Many new mothers find breastfeeding a great way to bond with their baby and can be used as a nice quiet time to relax and destress. This can also help with losing weight as it helps you to begin to regulate your hormones and try to make up a little bit for the lack of sleep that is happening, especially in those first few weeks.

Variables That Also Affect Postpartum Weight Loss

There are many variables that come into play when you begin to work on taking off the extra weight that was gained during your pregnancy. Since no two moms' stories are exactly the same, you will probably find a lot of conflicting information. You will want to try and find what works best for you and just try to focus on implementing a few little steps at a time as they will eventually add up to not only possible weight loss but also overall healthy habits. 

A few of the variables that affect postpartum weight loss include

  • Whether you are exclusive breastfeeding or doing a mix of breastfeeding and supplementing formula can play a part in how many extra calories you burn. 
  • Practicing a healthy diet full of whole food groups instead of reaching for junk food.
  • Level of sleep deprivation can play a major role in weight gain as it messes with your hormones and tends to create a chain reaction of not-so-healthy choices. 
  • Your activity level before you became pregnant, as well as any type of exercise program you completed during pregnancy, can determine the amount of muscle mass you have to help get you back on track. 
  • The total amount of weight that you gained during pregnancy. 
  • The number of previous pregnancies as well as the type of delivery can also come into play in how quickly your body is able to recover. 

Overall, a small amount of weight loss can be a common side-effect of breastfeeding. If you pair that with regular physical activity, some light exercise, and a healthy diet, you can lay the foundation for knocking out extra fat cells and possibly getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight with some time. 

Be Patient With Your Postpartum Body

The number one goal of breastfeeding is to provide your baby with an amazing nutritional asset by keeping up your milk production and working on creating a healthy lifestyle that can be sustained much longer than a few weeks or months. 

You can use breastfeeding as a step in your weight loss efforts, but it’s only one step in the process. You also need to be sure and keep healthy snacks on hand, find some sources of lean protein that you enjoy, drink plenty of water, work on getting enough sleep, and add in some light exercise or walks to get in some movement. All of these things together can help you create an opportunity for healthy weight loss that you can practice for life. 

The bottom line is that the benefits of breastfeeding go far beyond gradual weight loss. Although that might feel defeating at first, there are going to be so many things happening in those first few months postpartum that it’s really a good idea to accept that not everything is going to instantly go back to where it was pre-pregnancy. It’s also not typically recommended to actively try to lose weight until you are at least 2 months postpartum, and that’s the very earliest! 

If you are doing all of the things you feel like you should be doing and feel that you’re body is still struggling, be sure and reach out to a lactation consultant or your health care provider. They can offer you resources and tips for your specific situation to help you feel your best while also providing vital nutrients to your baby. There are also some IBCLC’s that are registered nutritionists that can help provide you with resources and expertise in both breastfeeding and nutrition for weight loss.

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