Is it normal to lose weight while breastfeeding?

By The Health News Team | December 1, 2022
Breastfeeding and weight loss

After having a baby, some people struggle to shed the extra pounds they put on throughout their pregnancy. Others report a different situation — losing lots of weight quickly, with very little effort.

So what gives? According to Mary Hoffman, a lactation consultant and advanced clinician at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, the answer could be breastfeeding.

"People who are breastfeeding burn extra calories," she says. "But everyone is different. Some burn about 250 a day, others burn up to 500. It just depends on your body."

There have been numerous studies on breastfeeding and weight change, though the results are inconclusive. Many factors, such as pre-pregnancy weight, diet and physical activity level, could impact weight loss after giving birth. On average, exclusively breastfeeding mothers may see a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per month.

Shedding the pounds that stick
For those struggling to lose those extra pregnancy pounds, breastfeeding isn’t the answer. Instead, the focus should be on a healthy diet and exercise.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't diet. Instead, eat well-balanced, healthy meals.

  • Avoid eating fewer than 1500-1800 calories a day, as this may affect your milk supply.

  • Try eating many small meals throughout the day to keep hunger in check.

  • Aim for slow and steady weight loss.

  • Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine.

  • Eat protein and fiber-rich whole foods.

  • Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.

Additionally, regular physical activity can help with weight management post-pregnancy. Exercising also reduces risk of disease, improves sleep, and strengthens bones and muscles. And physical activity can help boost your mood, sharpen focus, reduce stress and relieve fatigue.

As always, talk with your doctor before starting any fitness program. If given the greenlight, create a routine that is manageable and realistic.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, which can be split into five 30-minute workouts or 10-minute workouts when possible.

Move enough to raise your heart rate and sweat a bit. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include:

  • Brisk walking

  • Riding a bike on a level surface

  • Pilates

  • Spinning (stationary cycling)

  • Dancing

  • Swimming

  • Playing tennis or pickleball

You should also incorporate muscle-strengthening activity into your routine at least two days a week. This includes activities such as lifting weights; working with resistance bands; and doing push-ups, sit-ups and squats.

Regardless of how your body responds to breastfeeding, it’s important to be patient and kind to yourself. Remember, your body has gone through some major changes and it needs time to heal.

Sign up for one of Sharp HealthCare’s breastfeeding classes for information, advice and support.

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Mary Hoffman

Contributor

Mary Hoffman is a lactation consultant and advanced clinician at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.


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