Most lactating mothers worry about the increased possibilities of weight gain after breastfeeding. This is because lactation assists in postpartum weight loss. During exclusive nursing (the first six months), you may consume an excess of about 400-500 kilocalories per 24 hours for milk production (1). However, the process of breastfeeding affects the metabolism, due to which you may end up losing some weight.
In this post, we discuss the effects of lactation and its link with maternal weight gain. While on the topic, note that dieting is not recommended during lactation as it may comprise the nutritional needs of the mother and the baby.
Will You Gain Weight Once You Stop Nursing?
There is no substantial research-based evidence that links weaning and weight gain. It is true that breastfeeding burns more calories and also makes metabolism more efficient (2). However, the likelihood of weight gain after cessation of breastfeeding could vary from one woman to another. While some women gain weight after they wean their babies, it does not happen with all women.
What Causes Weight Gain After Weaning The Baby?
Some women may notice weight gain after they wean their baby. The weight gain may occur due to the following causes.
1. Caloric surplus
Breastfeeding mothers need more calories to meet their requirements for nutrition and breast milk production (3). Thus, your appetite may increase during breastfeeding, and it may stay that way for a while even after you wean your baby. The excess calories may eventually lead to weight gain. The effects of caloric surplus could be compounded by a lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Hormonal changes
Prolactin and oxytocin are hormones that play a significant role in breastmilk production. Once you stop breastfeeding, these hormones begin to drop. Both oxytocin and prolactin play an essential role in your emotional wellness. Some women may experience depression or feel low, causing them to binge eat, which could cause weight gain (4).
Elliot Reimers, a NASM-certified nutrition coach, explains, “Mothers experience hormonal changes after weaning, which can make them feel down. Weaning also makes them feel that they have lost connection with their child now that the child is growing up and ‘no longer needs her.’ When they feel negative emotions, some mothers turn to stress eating, leading to weight gain.”
Tips To Avoid Weight Gain After Weaning
Dr. Brittany Robles, a New York-basedOB/Gyn and NASM-certified professional trainer, says, “Once you stop breastfeeding, it is important to decrease your food intake a bit to compensate for the drop in your body’s energy requirement. It doesn’t have to be all at once. You can do this by gradually decreasing your serving sizes. Don’t eliminate foods, just eat a slightly smaller portion. Over time, your hunger and appetite will adjust to the change in caloric intake.”
The following tips could help you manage your food intake to shed the extra weight you gained after weaning your baby.
- Keep an eye on what you eat. Try to work on reducing the food intake gradually.
- Avoid any rapid weight loss diets since they may make you cave into your cravings eventually.
- Listen to your body and eat only when you are hungry. Do not overeat.
- Eat healthy snacks, such as fruits and nuts, to provide yourself with the necessary nutrients and calories.
You may also make the following changes to your lifestyle.
- Engage in moderate exercises. If you do not have more free time on hand, you may spread out your workouts into various parts across the day.
- You may exercise 15-20 times multiple times a day.
- Stay active whenever possible. For instance, if you can walk to a place, then avoid using the car or bus.
- Set realistic goals. Losing excess weight could take weeks or even months. Respect your body’s limits, and do not push it to the point that you risk injury.
- You may try some fun workout ideas that can be done along with the baby here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I lose my belly after breastfeeding?
You may reduce the extra calories you consume and work out regularly to reduce belly fat once your baby is weaned. If you do not get the desired results, speak to a dietician for a suitable diet plan.
2. Can I still produce milk years after stopping breastfeeding?
Some women may experience milk discharge for up to two to three years after weaning the baby off breast milk. The milky discharge typically involves both the breasts. However, not all women may experience this (5).
Some women associate breastfeeding with weight gain, but no studies have proven the same. However, after weaning a baby, weight gain in some women could be due to hormonal changes or surplus calories. Moderate exercise, eating a healthy diet, and staying active as much as possible are a few tips that can help manage weight gain after breastfeeding the baby. However, note that losing the extra baby weight will take time, so do not rush to lose weight faster.
Infographic: Body Changes After Weaning And Tips To Manage
Cessation of breastfeeding brings noticeable changes in a mother’s body. Knowing how to deal with this phase could ease your concerns to a large extent. Explore this infographic for helpful tips and share it with your friends and fellow mothers.
- There is no substantial scientific evidence of weight gain after cessation of breastfeeding.
- Hormonal changes, caloric surplus, and changes in eating habits and lifestyle can be reasons for weight gain after breastfeeding.
- Eating healthy, indulging in physical activities, and limiting excess calories or empty calories can help prevent weight gain after breastfeeding.
2. Hayden W. Hyatt et al., Lactation has persistent effects on a mother’s metabolism and mitochondrial function; Scientific Reports volume 7
3. Maternal Diet; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4. After weaning – what next?; La Leche league
5. Lactating but not nursing; Go Ask Alice
Dr. Ritika Shah
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Regina Kincaid(RM, IBCLC)
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