It’s really common to want to return to your pre-pregnancy shape and size. As this study shows us, body image and the postpartum period are not necessarily great friends.
But figuring out how to lose weight while breastfeeding is complex. How do you feel more comfortable in your body while at the same time ensuring that your baby gets the nourishment they need?
First things first: no pressure. Nobody says you have to lose weight right now—and especially not quickly. That being said, if you want to lose weight, someone telling you “oh you’re fine!” is not that helpful either.
So, if losing weight while breastfeeding is something that you think will help you feel good and strong, we’ll take you through the ins and outs.
How to safely lose weight while breastfeeding
Healthy postpartum weight loss means not losing more than about a pound and a half a week. It also means not starting on the journey before about the six-week mark.
And before you get going, here are some (often hard) truths about losing weight while breastfeeding:
You need extra calories when breastfeeding. About 500 extra calories, to be precise. That means a diet of between 2,300 and 2,500 a day will help you maintain your weight. If you want to go lower than that, just make sure to stay above 1,800 calories a day.
Being patient with yourself matters. There is a correlation between breastfeeding and weight loss. This study suggests that mamas who breastfeed exclusively for at least three months tend to lose more weight. But it may take a full year to see the effects. (And some mamas don’t see them at all.)
Our bodies are all different. What works for one mama is not necessarily going to work for every mama. While breastfeeding burns calories, there are so many other factors at play, like how well you are sleeping to your age to whether you are breastfeeding exclusively.
What should I eat to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Ultimately, the best postpartum diet to lose weight while breastfeeding is one that leaves you feeling nourished and up for the task. That’s priority number one.
(And one pro tip? Get rid of the word “diet.” Think of feeling comfortable and strong. You have a lot going on without all the pressure that word contains. In between feeds, this TedTalk about why dieting doesn’t usually work is great viewing.)
That being said, here are some helpful tips:
- Pack your plate with fruits and veggies. The calories are low and the nutrients are high.
- Get your protein in. Think two to three servings a day. If you eat fish, it’s great to include as a protein source.
- Avoid empty calories. Remember those 500 extra calories you need to consume while breastfeeding? Get them from nutritious sources rather than processed and/or high-sugar foods.
- Drink enough water. Feeling more thirsty than before? Yep, that’s common. While drinking water doesn’t increase your milk supply, it does a great job of keeping you energized.
- Ask your doctor about supplements. While supplements may not directly help you with weight loss, they can improve your overall health. Increasing your calcium and vitamin D, for example, will help you prevent bone loss.
For more on what to eat while breastfeeding, head here.
How do you lose belly fat while breastfeeding?
Without supposing this will easily work for everyone, exercise can play a key role in the postpartum period—not only as a way to lose weight but also as a way to help with mood and stress levels.
Of course, it can feel impossible to fit this in when you have a baby in your life. Do what you can when you can. Even a few minutes a day can help you feel good. Head here for our top tips on postpartum exercise.
Why am I gaining weight while breastfeeding and exercising?
Famously, Serena Williams struggled to shed the post-pregnancy pounds. Yep, sometimes no matter what you do, the pounds want to stick around. And it’s just not as simple as breastfeeding = weight loss.
As this study in the International Journal of Obesity suggests, while breastfeeding can help some women to lose weight, this is by no means the case across the board. There are all sorts of reasons why you might be gaining weight.
Speak to your doctor to rule out conditions such as thyroid issues. Also, sleeplessness and stress—both pretty common for new mamas—can affect your hormone levels and lead to weight gain.
Wishing you all the best.