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Sharp Health News

Does breastfeeding help you lose weight?

Dec. 2, 2016

Breastfeeding and weight loss

I’ll admit it: I was counting on the weight I’d lose from breastfeeding. It seemed so simple, so effortless, and it seemed to work for every mom I knew. Forget fad diets and carb counting — this was a weight-loss method I could get behind.

Then I had my baby, and those last few pounds stuck like glue. So what gives? Why do some women bounce back while others struggle? And more importantly, why can’t they bottle up this phenomenon?

Mary Ann Jones, lactation program manager at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, has the answers. “Women who are breastfeeding burn extra calories,” she says, “but every woman is different. Some burn about 250 a day, others burn up to 500. It just depends on your body.”

But I can’t put all the blame on genetics. The cupcakes I devoured during pregnancy didn’t help either.

“It can be easy to eat more during pregnancy than we need, especially when our tummies look big anyway,” says Jones. “But eating too much during pregnancy just causes those pounds to linger after delivery,” she says. In general, pregnant women need 300 to 350 extra calories during their second trimester, and an extra 500 in the third. So the cupcakes clearly didn’t qualify.

The trick to losing baby weight is not about breastfeeding, but rather focusing on a healthy diet and exercise.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t diet — instead, eat well-balanced, healthy meals
  • Try eating many small meals throughout the day to keep hunger in check
  • Aim for slow and steady weight loss, instead of losing it all at once
  • Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine
  • Keep taking your prenatal vitamins
  • Be easy on your post-baby body, and give it time to heal

Like anything, a weight-loss plan takes work. I know that now. So next time around, as I’m dreaming of chocolate frosting, I’ll remember this fact. And let’s face it: I’ll probably eat it anyway.

Sharp HealthCare offers many breastfeeding classes and consultations to help make motherhood easier.

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