Can I breastfeed if I want to lose weight?

losing weight while breastfeeding via lactationlink.com

Hi mamas! I’m Kristin Gourley, IBCLC. I’m a mom to 5 and lactation consultant with Lactation Link. I’m here today to talk about breastfeeding and losing weight!

I am often asked by moms if breastfeeding while trying to lose weight is okay.  In general, yes!  It is safe to lose weight and breastfeed your baby.

So what if you aren’t losing weight naturally while breastfeeding? Is it safe to diet? A lactation consultant shares tips and...

After the obvious loss of weight from the baby and placenta, some women find that they continue to lose pregnancy weight without any extra effort (lucky ducks!).  Just like everything related to babies, though, that’s not always the case and postpartum weight changes vary woman to woman!

losing weight while breastfeeding via lactationlink.com

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How breastfeeding can affect mother’s weight

One study found that women who entered pregnancy with a normal-range Body Mass Index retained less weight if they breastfed for 6+ months, versus those who breastfed less than 1 week, who retained more weight.  The same study found that women who entered pregnancy obese were below their pre-pregnancy weight at six months postpartum if they breastfed exclusively!

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Whether you notice that you don’t have to work hard to lose the baby weight or that you have to consciously watch your diet in order to drop pounds, it is still important to eat healthy as a breastfeeding mom. I like to recommend a colorful diet, drinking water as often as you are thirsty, try to minimize sweets and fried foods.  While your milk is still high-quality even if your diet isn’t perfect, how you feel, how you sleep, and your mood may be affected if you’re not taking in enough nutrients.

losing weight while breastfeeding via lactationlink.com

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Can I breastfeed if I want to lose weight?

So what if you aren’t losing weight naturally while breastfeeding?  Is it safe to diet?  Studies have shown that short-term dieting combined with exercise does not affect milk supply.  Most women should eat at least 1800 calories per day and can safely lose around 1 pound per week.  Harsh diets like liquid fasts and diet pills should be avoided. Get some tips for postpartum wellness from a nutrition coach here. Remember to be cleared for exercise by your doctor or midwife after birth before beginning to work out.

Most mothers do want to lose weight postpartum.  Breastfeeding alone may help you in that endeavor, but the bottom line about postpartum weight loss is that eating healthy is always a good idea, exercise is safe while breastfeeding, and it’s okay to work to lose about a pound per week.  If you’re having trouble losing weight or are losing too much, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.  If you are worried about your weight loss’s effect on breastfeeding, reach out to us for a consult so we can help you reach your goals!

Thanks for stopping by,

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Kristin Gourley, BS, IBCLC

References

Baker, JL, Gamborg, M, Heitmann, BL, Lissner, L, Sorensen, TIA, Rasmussen, KM. (2008). Breastfeeding reduces postpartum weight retention. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88: 1543-1551.

Lauwers, J. & Swisher, A. (2011) Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant’s guide. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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