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Can I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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You can lose weight while breastfeeding but you need to do so with caution and care. The good news is that breastfeeding often promotes weight loss, since producing milk burns extra calories. If you add this to a moderate calorie diet and some daily exercise, you’re very likely to note some weight loss.

Probably the expert on all things regarding breastfeeding is the International La Leche League (LLL). LLL even notes that women who live in developing countries who don’t have adequate diets may produce very nutritious breastmilk for babies. This brings up an important point if you want to lose weight while breastfeeding. Your body will work first toward producing high quality milk for your baby, which may prove detrimental to you, instead of your baby.

For this reason, it’s important that you work on a way to lose weight while breastfeeding that fulfills your nutritional needs too. The LLL recommends that you not diet the first two months after pregnancy because you are recovering from a physically traumatic event (giving birth), and you need this time to establish a good milk supply. Eating too little during the first couple of months may adversely affect you and your baby, and in most cases it’s more important that your baby gain weight during these first two months than you lose weight.

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After the first two months, you can work on ways to lose weight while breastfeeding by eating a diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Don’t forget to drink lots of liquids, about 10-12 glasses of water a day. Calorie recommendations on eating are highly dependent on your size, current weight and frame. Since most women have a check-up about six to eight weeks after pregnancy, discuss the amount of calories you should be eating with your doctor.

The LLL recommends that safe weight loss is about one pound (.45 kg) per week. If you’re losing considerably more than this, this may not be healthy. You will probably have already taken off some pregnancy weight in the first few weeks after a baby’s birth. This means women can often get back to pre-pregnancy weight within about three to six months, depending on many factors, including how much you gained. If your pre-pregnancy weight was over average weight, it’s okay to keep losing.

Moderate exercise is another important key to lose weight while breastfeeding, and it can be good for you as you handle the stresses of motherhood. If you can get the baby out for a walk for about thirty minutes to an hour, five days a week, you’ll be more successful in your weight loss goals. Very strenuous exercise should be considered only if weight loss needs are immediate and vital to the mother. Talk with your doctor about pursuing a more rigorous exercise plan if needed.

Breastfeeding can result in ravenous hunger and thirst and you shouldn’t ignore this even if you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding. It’s a good idea to respond to your body’s signals by eating when you’re hungry and drinking when you’re thirsty. You can still do this while reducing calories by choosing foods that are low in fat and high in protein. When we’re hungry we often crave foods that aren’t that great for us, so arm yourself with nutritious snacks and meals that don’t contain empty calories from high fats and sugars.

Lastly, sometimes weight loss can diminish milk supply, and it is the opinion of most medical associations throughout the world that babies prosper best by being exclusively breastfed during the first six months. If you find your milk supply seems inadequate to your baby and you are trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, you may be cutting calories too much. You may want to consult your doctor or a good lactation consultant to find out if your nutritional intake is appropriate or is having an effect on milk supply levels.

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