You may have been told over and over that if you breastfeed, pregnancy weight is easier to lose. The truth? It’s not that simple. And really, while you might be getting used to this new-you and adjusting to body changes, remember that your body is doing amazing things by keeping your baby nourished. Before we go talking about “losing weight,” let’s remember what’s most important: your mental health and the nourishment and wellbeing of both you and baby. Having said that, we understand the desire to lose weight while breastfeeding or pumping in a safe, controlled way that doesn’t hinder your milk production or the relationship you’ve built with your baby (not to mention the new relationship you’re building with yourself!). But the question is, how do you lose weight while breastfeeding in a safe way that helps you love your new body in the process?
The truth about all the rumors around losing weight while breastfeeding — that it’s easier because your body is burning more calories or that working out too much can decrease your supply — are all subjective and depend on a lot of other factors. At the end of the day, if you know the right way to support your milk production, you can make small changes to lose the baby weight you want to lose.
Losing postpartum weight while breastfeeding doesn’t need to involve any fad diets or trends. Providing your body with whole foods, water, sleep, and movement are all ways to get back to a weight you are comfortable with. Here you will find our eight safe tips for postpartum weight loss while breastfeeding.
No surprise here. Our first tip is to maintain a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Skip the highly processed, overly fried, and sugary foods. Focus instead on nutrient-dense, whole foods. Foods that are high in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, thiamin, and folate are important to add to your diet to make sure you are meeting your and your baby’s needs, which is the priority.
When you are looking to lose weight, fruits and veggies are a great place to start. They can be delicious snacks—reach for the baby carrots or pre-cut peppers and cucumbers. They can also curb your sweet tooth—grab some fresh seasonal berries or frozen grapes.
Fruits and veggies with high fiber content and low glycemic load are some of the best options—berries, apples, pears, cauliflower, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables.
Adding whole grains and complex carbs to your diet can also help you lose weight. Not only are whole grains high in fiber, helping you feel fuller longer, but they also have bioactive components that may increase your metabolism. Magnesium, folate, and iron are also found in whole grains, which will help maintain your milk supply and keep you and your baby healthy while losing weight.
There is a difference between whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains include every part of the grain—bran, germ, endosperm. Refined grains, like white bread, on the other hand, are processed to remove the bran and germ,. When you remove parts of the grain, you are taking away a lot of the nutrients. Stick to whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and whole-wheat bread or pasta.
Protein is an essential nutrient when breastfeeding. Like building blocks for the body, proteins help build and repair tissue, therefore maintaining your muscle mass and providing necessary nutrients to the baby through breastmilk.
When deciding on what types of protein to consume, focus on lean proteins—fish, skinless chicken, beans, and tofu. Proteins are the building blocks for the body. They help build and repair tissue.
When thinking about losing weight, fats may seem counterintuitive. It really comes down to the type of fats we eat. Focus on unsaturated fats from foods like olive oil, avocado, almonds, and walnuts, and seeds.
Make sure you are getting the most out of each calorie. The good news? Breastfeeding burns about 450 – 500 calories a day. If you maintain your pre-pregnancy calorie levels, this can help you lose weight.
But remember, you should not lower your calories much more than that. Your body needs nutrients and extra calories to function and make milk. Here is a general amount of calories you need daily:
But be smart about it — you can eat a plain doughnut worth about 200 calories or eat oatmeal topped with fresh berries for the same amount. A doughnut will give you empty calories and no nutritional value. Meanwhile, oatmeal will provide fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, which can increase milk supply.
It may seem overwhelming to think about making healthy meals and snacks every day while caring for a new baby. One way to help you is to meal plan. Planning out your meals and snacks at the beginning of every week can help you make better food choices.
Meal prepping is also a great time-saving hack. Wash and prep your veggies and fruits for easy grab-and-go snacking.
It can be hard to remember to drink eight glasses of water a day in all the hustle and bustle of having an infant. One way to help you remember is to have a large, reusable cup that you can fill up two or three times and know you have gotten the hydration you need.
Drinking an extra 50 oz of water on top of the standard 64 oz a day can help you lose more weight. This is an easy way to reduce your weight while still supporting the milk supply.
When you are nursing, you may feel more hungry. Eat small meals throughout the day instead of big meals only three times a day to combat this. This is where meal planning and prep will come in handy.
Reach for those healthy snacks—hummus and veggies, yogurt, a handful of nuts and seeds, bananas, apple slices, and peanut butter.
The first six weeks postpartum should be for rest. No matter how you gave birth, your body did an incredible feat. Allow yourself to take those six weeks and let your body heal.
In those six weeks, you can take short walks to keep your body moving and help with weight loss. Make sure to listen to your body and take it slow in the beginning.
Your physician will likely give you the go-ahead to add in more physical activity and workouts at your six-week check-up. Start slowly. If your milk supply is established, you can include yoga and aerobic exercise. Your goal should be to lose no more than a pound a week. Losing too much weight too quickly can reduce your milk supply.
Sleep. Do you remember it? It is hard to remember a time when getting the full eight hours was normal. While you may not be able to get a solid stretch of sleep with a newborn, you can focus on getting enough sleep or as much sleep as possible, like during nap times.
Adequate sleep may help in weight loss by improving your energy throughout the day. That way, you can take care of all your baby’s needs and still have the energy to move your body.
Letting your baby nurse on-demand—as often as they want—helps with increasing milk supply. It also helps burn more calories. As your baby develops, you may form a more set schedule, but in the beginning, nursing as often as possible can be beneficial for your milk supply and weight loss.
If you have decided to partially or exclusively pump, this will also use up calories. To make sure your milk supply comes in, it may be essential to pump early and often. This is also important if your baby needs to stay in the NICU after birth.
Losing weight while breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint. It took your body nine months to grow a baby. Sure, your belly may be a little squishier than it used to be, but don’t forget the incredible journey you have been on. Just as it took time to grow, it will take time to reduce the extra weight.
Don’t get sucked into trends. Your breastfeeding journey is not the time to be experimenting with the newest fad diet. Anything that claims to be a “quick fix”—run.
And don’t forget to check in with yourself. If you sense you would be in a better mental state by losing weight, then it’s something to explore. Steer clear of social media pressures and unrealistic body images portrayals on your feeds. Take things at your pace, with the nourishment of your and your baby’s body coming first.
Losing weight while breastfeeding may not be quite the same as losing weight without breastfeeding, but it is not impossible. You are already at an advantage because it takes calories to breastfeed. Setting yourself up for success by eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods and creating a meal plan should be your first step. Don’t forget to be mindful of your water intake as well.
What you eat is important for weight loss, but exercise and sleep are just as important. Ensure you get the okay from your doctor before starting an exercise routine, but light walking is safe as long as you feel up to it.
Finally, and most importantly, be kind to your body and remember the incredible feat it pulled off. Loving your new body can and will happen, sometimes it just takes time.
Expectful is here to help normalize the postpartum body and provide tools to support you through every change of motherhood.
We understand that growing your family while having a healthy and happy pregnancy and baby is probably a top priority for you right now.
We created Expectful to help you harness the power of your mind to have a healthy, happy pregnancy and baby.
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