Helping you safely lose weight while keeping your baby happy
In the weeks after giving birth the thought of returning to your pre-pregnancy weight will be playing on your mind. While you should take it easy and not put yourself under too much pressure there is no harm in gently trying to shift some of your baby weight, as long as it is what you want.
If you are breastfeeding it is important to enjoy optimum nutrition so you should be mindful of this when you start any weight loss plan. If you are unsure about whether it is safe for you to lose weight while breastfeeding you should consult your lactation consult or medical team.
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Can breastfeeding help you lose weight?
It is believed that breastfeeding can play a part in you losing weight but the amount of weight lost will vary from woman to woman. On average, you will burn around 500 to 700 calories each day you breastfeed.
You can speak to your doctor, a nutritionist or consult an approved diet and nutrition app that will tell you how many calories you should be consuming each day.
When can I start losing weight after giving birth?
Health professionals advise that you should wait for 8 weeks after giving birth before trying to lose weight. You can eat more healthily and take gentle exercise (walking) but anything too strenuous should wait.
Your body will need time to recover after giving birth and your milk supply should be well established before you begin to make any drastic changes to your diet. If you are tempted to start before 8 weeks you can try slowly introducing healthier recipes but don’t restrict your calories too much.
Can I restrict calories while breastfeeding?
If you are used to dieting in the past and calorie restriction familiar you will need to ignore what you have done before and ensure that you do not go lower than 1800 calories each day if you are breastfeeding.
If you feel that 1800 is too much you can start to introduce exercise into your daily routine after the 6-8 week mark once you have been given the go-ahead by your medical team.
If you have a complicated broth you may need to wait a little longer.
Recommended weight loss guidelines
As mentioned, if you are breastfeeding you should not drop lower than 1800 calories per day. If you did consume 1800 calories per day you should lose approximately 1lb per week.
Losing a small amount of weight each week means that you will have a greater chance of sustaining a weight loss rather than losing a drastic amount of weight and putting it back on quickly as it is not achievable long term.
By making simple changes to your diet, such as reducing processed foods and sugar content in your diet you can make positive changes without realizing it.
Once again, introducing small periods of exercise such as walking, strolling with your baby stroller, or joining a yoga class can accelerate your weight loss.
How quickly can you lose weight after giving birth?
Every woman is different when it comes to returning to her pre-pregnancy and for many women, pregnancy changes their weight and shape forever. There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration including:
- If you were overweight before becoming pregnant
- How much weight you gain during pregnancy
- Your metabolism
- Your exercise levels
- Your diet
- Your lifestyle
On average, it will take women between 6 and 9 months to shift the weight that was gained while pregnant but, as we have mentioned, some women never lose the weight. If you notice that you lose a lot of weight quickly after birth this can be normal as you are losing the baby weight, placenta, and amniotic fluid.
This amount of weight loss will vary depending on the size of your baby and how much fluid you have and you could also lose some weight naturally if you have not eaten normally during a long labor.
After the immediate weight loss, your body will need to return to consuming fewer calories than you burn to lose weight. As the daily recommended calorie intake is 2000 calories for the average woman, eating below this number will see you lose weight.
Eating 1800 calories per day will still give you all of the nutrients that you need and will keep your milk supply in full flow while still giving you the energy you need to get on with your day.
How many calories do I need to consume when breastfeeding?
To maintain weight, the average breastfeeding woman will need to consume an additional 450-500 calories on top of the daily recommended average of 2000 calories. You can look for an online calorie calculator that will tell your ideal calorie intake by taking into account your weight, age, height, and activity levels.
This usual guidance for breastfeeding women would be 2250-2500 for those who are inactive, 2450-2700 if you do moderate exercise, and 2650-2900 if you lead an active lifestyle
To maintain your weight and enjoy a nutrient-rich diet you should look at healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, wholegrain, and good sources of fiber. To prevent further weight gain you should avoid processed foods, situated fats, high-salt foods, and sugar.
How to lose weight while breastfeeding
Once you have decided on your calorie intake while breastfeeding, being careful to not drop below 1800 you can look into the following tips:
When you lower the number of carbs you are eating, for example cutting down on bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes you can lose weight quite quickly. You will also feel less bloated and puffy around your stomach.
Be careful not to completely cut out carbs as you will need the energy and nutrients that carbs bring. Balance your low-carb diet by eating plenty of protein, fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich food.
It is very important to keep hydrated when breastfeeding so that you do not become dehydrated and your milk supply is not affected. Aim for around 10-12 cups per day—leaving a bottle next to you as you feed just in case you get stuck under a sleeping baby.
Staying hydrated will also satisfy your hunger as, sometimes, we are simply thirsty rather than hungry.
It is important not to skip meals but to eat frequently. Small amounts throughout the day or main meals and healthy snacks will maintain a good metabolism and give you the energy that you need to look after your baby and get through your day.
By small amounts of food throughout the day, you will maintain good energy levels and cut out the risk of starting yourself all day then eating high-sugar and high-fat foods later on in the day.
As mentioned, carrying out regular light exercise will boost your weight loss without you restricting your calorie intake too much. You will need to speak to your doctor or an expert in postpartum training and then you can ease gently into working out.
There are specific postpartum workouts and regimes online and in-person that will help you find the right flow. Swimming, walking, cycling, yoga, and pilates are all good choices, and aiming for 20- 30 minutes per day should bring positive results.
You should try to feed your baby or pump milk ahead of exercising so that your workout is comfortable and your breasts don’t become engorged. Exercising will also improve your mental health and can help if you are experiencing postpartum depression.
It is important to note that exercise should not be carried about before 6-8 weeks after giving birth and longer if you have had a C-section or a complicated pregnancy.
When it comes to losing weight it is important to get plenty of rest and enough sleep each night. We know how hard this can be as a new mom as babies will not always sleep when we need them to.
Getting good rest when you can enable the body to recover quicker and therefore lose weight quicker. When you start exercising your muscles will need time to repair (good protein intakes from lean meats, nuts, seeds, and dairy can help with this) which usually happens when we sleep.
Sleep can be particularly difficult in the early stages as your baby will be feeding a lot through the night. During this time try to nap in the day and pump milk when you can so that your partner or a family member can support you while you get to sleep.
In summary, while many women want to lose their baby weight as quickly as possible, others are happy to take more time. If and when you decide to lose weight be careful not to do so too soon after giving birth and always make sure you don’t restrict your calories too much.
If you are ever concerned about your weight or are struggling to lose weight you should speak to your doctor.