3 Questions About Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

3 Questions About Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

For some of us, a new year stands before us like a blank book – a time when we can reflect on the past and make resolutions to change our future in positive ways.

Some of us may have a New Year’s resolution to quit a bad habit, exercise more or spend more time with family.

One common New Year’s resolution is to shed some extra unneeded kilograms that may have crept up.

Weight loss seems to be a common goal amongst mothers postnatally who may have gained weight during pregnancy.

Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

If this is a goal of yours and you’re breastfeeding you may be unsure if it’s OK to do so. This article will help answer 3 questions you may have about weight loss while breastfeeding.

#1: Does Breastfeeding Help You To Lose Weight?

When you’re pregnant, your body naturally builds up a store of weight that is beneficial to both you and your baby. After giving birth, breastfeeding can help you lose that extra store of weight.

It’s estimated that the process of making milk can burn about 500 calories per day, assuming your baby is exclusively breastfed under six months and partially-breastfed (only solids in addition to breastmilk) from 6–12 months and no change to your activity level.

So, even without doing anything to try to lose weight, you burn extra calories just by breastfeeding.

One study showed that mothers who breastfed for six months weigh approximately 1.38kg less than mothers who formula fed, and 0.84kg less than mothers who breast and formula fed.

In another study of more than 26,000 women, researchers found a moderate pregnancy weight gain of 12kg could be eliminated by six months of exclusive breastfeeding.

If you gained more than your doctor recommended during pregnancy, breastfeeding may not help you get all the way back to your pre-baby weight.

That doesn’t mean all is lost, though. There are still plenty of things you can do to help you get back to your pre-baby body. See a personal trainer, an exercise physiologist, dietitian or physiotherapist for guidance.

#2: What Is Safe Weight Loss While Breastfeeding?

If you wish to lose weight while breastfeeding, it’s best to do so gradually and only once breastfeeding is established.

Research has found that overweight women may reduce their energy intake by approximately 500 calories and exercise aerobically four times per week to assist weight loss of up to half a kilogram per week without effecting their baby’s growth.

Research has also found that although diet alone can assist mothers to lose weight postnatally, it’s preferable to do so by combining diet and exercise.

This is because exercise enhances fitness and maintains muscle mass. Weight loss from diet alone is only a portion of fat, the rest is muscle and bone density.

#3: Can Weight Loss Impact Breastmilk?

It’s important to not lose weight too quickly when breastfeeding. Doing so could mean you don’t get the nutrients you need. Also, while rapid weight loss is unlikely to affect milk supply, there is a theoretical concern that if breastfeeding mothers mobilise their fat stores too quickly by losing weight too fast, environmental toxins stored in fat may enter breastmilk.

If you feel you need to lose a lot of weight or lose weight quickly, be sure to seek advice from a doctor or dietitian.

When it comes to weight loss in the postnatal period, remember it’s important to prioritise your health and nutritional needs. Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight or not it’s important to:

  • Eat a variety of carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and good quality proteins.
  • Choose healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose foods containing little or no added sugar. Foods labelled ‘low-fat’ are often very high in sugar.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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