Breastfeeding is chock-full of benefits – for your baby. But, what’s in it for you? Sure, breastfeeding is a beautiful and bonding experience between you and your child. But, some days you might feel like the milk-lady – one who’s eager to get back into her skinny jeans.
Breastfeeding is invaluable for your child’s wellbeing. And, as it turns out, there are advantages for you, too – especially when it comes to losing that extra baby weight.
How Does It Work?
Breastfeeding is a process that demands energy. After you give birth, your body works hard to establish and maintain an adequate milk supply for your baby. Maternal fat reserves – those extra pregnancy pounds – are continually tapped to produce milk.
To meet the milk needs of your baby, you need to consume up to 500 extra calories each day. If you have multiples or a voracious little eater, you might need slightly more.
You burn about 750 calories a day just to maintain your milk supply. So, after your body’s used the extra calories you consumed, it has to dip into the fat reserves for the rest. This efficient (and effortless) milk-generating process helps you lose weight gradually, while your milk supply stays strong.
Is Breastfeeding Enough?
New moms are often advised not to worry about losing weight for the first two months after giving birth. You’ve got plenty on your plate, caring for your newborn and allowing time for your body to recover.
Healthy weight. If you maintained a healthy weight while pregnant – and continue to eat well postpartum – you can lose one to two pounds a week with breastfeeding alone.
Incorporate light exercise into your daily routine, with your provider’s okay. Walks around the block and core-strengthening workouts are a great start. The combination will help you lose weight at a healthy rate, and get your body back in shape more quickly.
Once your baby is 2 months old (and your milk supply is steady), you can get more serious about losing any remaining maternal fat stores. But, make sure you consume enough calories or your metabolism will slow down – defeating the natural weight-loss process.
Overweight. If your maternal fat stores are “excessive,” your provider can advise you on how to safely lose weight while breastfeeding. Losing weight too quickly could jeopardize your health – and compromise your milk supply.
Also, you need to make sure you’re consuming enough calories to have the energy to care for your new baby, yourself and your family. Your provider may recommend exercises and a diet that encourages your body to use more maternal fat stores.
Which Foods Help?
The fat stored during pregnancy serves as a sort of energy “insurance,” to help your body function well once baby is born. You need to refuel postpartum energy stores regularly with healthful meals – to optimize your metabolism so you can perform at peak levels.
Meals and snacks. Just as your newborn nurses every few hours, you need to eat every few hours to replace spent energy. Eat small, balanced meals and nutritious snacks throughout the day. And, always eat a good breakfast, to start your day out right.
Choose fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whole grain breads and pasta, and lean meats. Skip the “empty” energy sources like candy bars and chips. Carbohydrates are a great source of quick energy. But, make sure you balance a high-carb meal with protein or (good) fats for long-lasting energy.
Hydration. Breast milk is 50 percent water, so you need to stay hydrated to bolster milk production. Try drinking eight ounces of liquid after each nursing session. Water (or water-based drinks), milk or fruit juices are the best choices.
Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. They pass through breast milk to your baby. And stay away from drugs like marijuana, which can damage your baby’s fragile brain.
Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry and drink when you’re thirsty (plus a little more). Physical demands of a job or a busy day running around may require you to consume more calories than you think you need. It can take weeks for your body to respond and get your metabolism working efficiently.
Be patient and take it easy on yourself. It took months to gain the baby weight and it’ll take months to lose it. But, proper postpartum care will help you recover more quickly from the trauma of childbirth. And, breastfeeding will help you shed the excess weight.
Have Questions about Breastfeeding?
If you have questions about breastfeeding, talk to your Providence obstetrician, certified nurse-midwife or lactation specialist. You can also learn more by visiting our online health library.
Or take a breastfeeding class: