Pregnancy can leave new moms with a few unwanted pounds, making it hard to fit into pre-pregnancy clothes. Fortunately, it is possible to slim down and shape up while breastfeeding, as long as new moms eat well and engage in moderate exercise. For healthy weight loss while breastfeeding, remember to start slow, practice moderation and consider weight loss a long term goal.
A few time-tested tips can help:
- Don’t try to lose weight for the first six weeks after the delivery.
A newborn’s erratic feeding and sleeping schedule can leave a new mom feeling too tired and disoriented to focus on anything else. Devoting the time to recovering and establishing breastfeeding is a smart move that will pay off in the long term. During the early weeks a new mother’s body also naturally changes—and part of that change is weight loss. In the first four weeks, the uterus shrinks back to normal size, enabling stomach muscles to contract. Also, breastfeeding can burn up to an extra 500 calories a day, which for some women leads to weight loss over time. Every woman is different but according to La Leche League, a breastfeeding woman can naturally lose 1 to 2 pounds each month during the first four to six months, and keep losing weight at a slower rate if she continues to breastfeed. Studies have shown that breastfeeding moms lose weight much faster than moms who bottle feed their babies.
- Eat healthy—it’s that simple.
Fortunately, the same foods that are good for producing breast milk are also smart choices when you want to lose weight. For example, a diet which focuses on lean protein, leafy greens, blueberries, lean beef, legumes, brown rice, oranges, eggs, whole wheat bread, and whole grain cereal contains the nutrients needed to breastfeed but also promotes weight loss. It is important to limit foods such as desserts, soda and deep-fried foods that provide extra calories without much nutritional value Women who are on special diets or have certain health conditions may need to take a vitamin supplement.
- Snack smart.
Tired and busy new moms may find themselves snacking on chips and other high-calorie foods with few nutrients. While shopping stock up on healthy snacks and avoid bringing the unhealthy ones into the house. Crave crunch? Choose celery and hummus over chips. Crave ice cream? Choose yogurt and fruit. Keep a bowl of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn on hand and some cherry tomatoes or grapes. Ideally the snacks should require little preparation and can be eaten with one hand, while holding a newborn.
- Talk to your doctor about the right time to resume exercise.
Women who have a vaginal delivery should be able to exercise soon after the baby is born. Women who have a C-section or complications should ask their healthcare provider about the right time to start. A woman’s level of activity prior to pregnancy and childbirth can also be a factor in how quickly she accelerates her postpartum exercise program. Start your regimen with 20 minutes of daily physical activity such as walking or stretching then gradually increase the intensity. Walking with your baby in a carrier or even pushing a stroller is a good way to burn calories. In the past, it was suggested that exercise might diminish milk supply. Studies have shown this is not true. To up your energy levels before working out, eat some healthy carbs.
- Don’t overdo it.
Losing about a pound a week is considered safe. If that seems slow, remember that a pregnancy takes nine months and the body may need an equal time to recover. Crash or fad diets are never a good idea but they pose extra problems while a woman is breastfeeding, by possibly reducing her milk supply and depriving her of much-needed energy. Some popular high protein diets involve cutting out carbohydrates but low carb diets are not advised for breastfeeding mothers since they need carbohydrates to make lactose, the sugar in milk.
Don’t let the extra postpartum weight distract you from enjoying your newborn. Losing weight will happen naturally while you are breastfeeding. The most efficient way to promote weight loss is to eat a healthy diet and exercise moderately.