American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses the recommendation by the Institute of Medicine that pregnant mothers gain weight between 11 to 16 kg during the course of pregnancy. While it is not possible to avoid gaining baby weight during pregnancy, it is definitely within your reach to lose baby weight postpartum.
Why Breastfeeding Helps You Shed Weight?
While some of the women lose weight automatically, others struggle. However, breastfeeding has been shown to shed weight, primarily because of the reason that almost 500 calories are burned while producing breast milk. This calorie deficit is the primary reason for weight loss while breastfeeding. Multiple research studies have shown that breastfeeding is helpful in long term weight loss. 1, 2, 3
Apart from this, longer breastfeeding has been associated with reduced risks of may diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. 4
How Much Weight You Lose Breastfeeding
While it depends on a number of other factors like stress in your life, your diet and physical activity etc. but one study of US women showed that the weight loss is moderate at about 3.2 pounds (1.5kg) compared with the mothers who formula-fed their babies. 5
Another study established a clear link between breastfeeding and long term weight loss. It reported that, ten years after pregnancy, breastfeeding women were with 3.4 kg less weight than those who never breastfed. 6
But losing weight while breastfeeding is not something you can take for granted. When your body needs 500 more calories every day for producing milk, you will feel hungrier. This coupled with sleep deprivation can sometimes get out of hand and lead to overindulgence and satisfied food cravings.
Healthy Ways to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
- Take it slow. While you are desperate to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, it is going to be a slow process. It is healthy to shed one pound a week while breastfeeding.
- Eat healthy. Try to eat a balanced diet that has minimum 1800 calories. It should include fats, carbs and proteins. Try oatmeal in breakfast which is an excellent breakfast for breastfeeding moms trying to lose weight. This will control keep your insulin in check and control your food cravings during the day.
- Substitute snacks. Do not stock your shelves with Doritos and chips. Eat healthy snacks like nuts and popcorn.
- Eat frequent meals. If you will give a too long gap between meals, your milk production will be affected. Your body will pull energy from your stores and you will feel starving. And we all rush to girl scouts cookies and comfort foods in such a situation. Hardly a situation you need to get into while trying to lose weight when breastfeeding. Therefore, eat 5-6 times a day.
- No quick fixes. If you cut back on your calories drastically, it will directly affect milk production. Your first thought should be enough milk for your baby and weight loss while breastfeeding should be a second thought.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked with weigh gain in many medical studies. Try to adjust your sleep cycles with those of your baby.
- Get moving. Start with a normal walk of 15 minutes and gradually increase it to about 40 minutes.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is essential for your normal body functioning as well as it helps you lose weight by making you feel full and energized.
Postpartum weight loss is a reality and very achievable. The results might not be same for everyone.