Weight gain is normal during pregnancy. Some women lose the extra weight soon after childbirth, while others may take longer. If you’ve given birth recently and are wondering how to lose those extra kilos you put on during pregnancy, this post is for you.
Weight loss after childbirth is possible, and one of the most effective ways is breastfeeding the baby. Combined with a few healthy lifestyle practices, regular breastfeeding can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner than later.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about seven things you can do to aid weight loss during breastfeeding.
7 Healthy Tips To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
1. Exclusively breastfeed for six months
Besides nourishing your baby, breastfeeding also helps burn your calories. But for that to happen, you should exclusively breastfeed. According to the USDA, women who only breastfeed for at least three months tend to lose more weight than those who do not. Women who continue breastfeeding after that, up to six months or more, tend to lose further weight as they use up more calories during the process (1).
But how does breastfeeding help?
To produce breast milk, your body needs extra calories that are sourced from the excess body fat. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is the key to losing the pregnancy weight, as this is when you use up enough calories that lead to a drop in weight postpartum (2).
The effects of breastfeeding on weight loss can be slow, and it may take you up to 12 months to see real results (3). So be patient.
2. Avoid eating for two
When you exclusively breastfeed, you will need around 450-500 additional calories per day (4). If you are eating healthy and nutritious food while taking in plenty of fluids, there is no need to eat for two, contrary to conventional wisdom. If you are overweight or obese due to the additional weight you gained during pregnancy, then avoid eating more than required. The body will then use the extra fat to provide the necessary calories for breast milk production.
3. Plan what you eat
You may not crave food postpartum but try and resist the urge to binge eat. Avoid junk foods and processed foods and stick to a nutritious, balanced diet. Here are some tips on eating right to lose excess weight while breastfeeding:
- Never skip meals. Instead of three large meals a day, have five to six small meals.
- Do not skip breakfast as it provides the energy that your body needs in the morning. Healthy breakfast will also prevent you from snacking on unhealthy food at odd hours.
- Eat slowly, and avoid doing other things while eating. When you focus on what you’re eating, it is easy to know when you’re full and stop.
- Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, including green vegetables, beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Make sure that 50% of the food you eat is fruits and veggies.
- Eat more whole grains, as they are more filling and rich in fiber.
- Pick lean meats like chicken and fish that have lower fat content than red meat.
- Avoid or limit your consumption of dairy to no-fat or low-fat options.
- Avoid sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks and fruit juices with added sugar.
- Prefer boiling or baking your food to frying it. And when you want to fry, pick low-fat vegetable oils over butter.
These changes to your diet plan can help cut down the extra calorie intake. Do not cut down calorie intake drastically as that could impact your breast milk production.
4. Avoid extreme weight loss diets
Avoid crash diets that restrict or increase the intake of a particular nutrient to burn calories. Experts state that such diets tend to drop the fluid levels in the body, creating an illusion of weight loss. When the body replenishes the fluids, the lost weight is regained.
Extreme diets can also result in muscle loss, which can lead to fatigue and other problems. So avoid following a specific weight-loss diet and stick to eating healthy food regularly.
A regular exercise regime can further help in shedding the extra weight. Most moms find it difficult to exercise with a breastfeeding baby to take care of. But you do not have to leave the baby to exercise. A 30-minute walk each day with your baby in the stroller can be a brilliant way to burn calories.
Do not indulge in intense or heavy weight-lifting exercises unless your doctor gives the go-ahead. Intense exercises put you at a higher risk of injury after childbirth, as the ligaments in the body are still a little relaxed (5).
Ideally, you should wait for at least six weeks or more after childbirth before starting an exercise routine. Consult your physician before resuming your workout regime, and indulge in light exercises like walking to stay active until then.
6. Sleep well
Sleeping for less than five hours can cause you to retain the extra weight and maybe even gain some extra pounds. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can make the body crave unhealthy foods at odd timings, which results in weight gain (6). Breastfeeding moms with young babies are at risk of sleep deprivation in the first year, due to erratic feeding and sleeping patterns of the baby.
Here are a few tips that nursing moms can follow to avoid sleep deprivation.
- Steal naps when the baby is asleep
- Stick to your food schedule and try not to give in to food cravings at odd hours.
- Ask your partner to help you with feeding the baby while you are sleeping as you can express breast milk and leave it in the refrigerator.
Lack of sleep is not the only hindrance in losing weight while breastfeeding.
7. Cope with stress
Taking care of a newborn can be stressful, which can make new moms want to eat more than necessary. Hormonal fluctuations and lack of support may further add to the “baby blues” (7).
Postpartum depression may interfere with your efforts in losing weight while breastfeeding. If you have difficulty handling stress, then ask your partner and family members for help. Splitting the baby’s responsibilities can significantly reduce the burden and decrease your stress.
Weight gain after delivery is quite a common occurrence, and seldom a cause for worry. Your body is likely to get back to its pre-pregnancy state eventually, as your baby grows. Just ensure that you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle while keeping unhealthy, junk food at bay to see the results soon. But if you see an abnormal increase in weight, then see a doctor.
2. Mariam Girguis, The Influence Of Breastfeeding On Postpartum Weight Retention; Yale University
3. P. Jarlenski et al., Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women, National Center for Biotechnology Information
4. Why Am I Gaining Weight After Giving Birth?; University of Utah
5. Here’s what you need to know about exercising after having a baby; The Ohio State University
6. Molecular ties between lack of sleep and weight gain; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
7. Beyond the “baby blues”; Harvard Medical School
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