Breastfeeding and weight

Want to get back into your skinny jeans after having a baby? The big questions new moms face, is: “Can breastfeeding really help me lose weight and get back in shape?” Well, here’s the truth.

It’s important for women to have a more realistic picture of breastfeeding!  Whilst breastfeeding can burn up 2000 – 3000 kJ per day, it’s a complex issue. There’s no guarantee it’ll lead to weight loss if you don’t also consider your diet.

I’m breastfeeding – why am I still gaining weight?

Remember that breastfeeding is a sedentary activity. You can spend quite a few hours sitting and nursing each day. Studies show that women who are not breastfeeding have potentially more time to exercise.

Many breastfeeding women describe feeling hungry all the time – this can lead to a pattern of unhealthy snacking and eating bigger portions of food.

A lack of sleep and routine, means sleep-deprived moms may satisfy their food cravings with “quick fixes” of carbohydrates and high fat foods. Those convenience foods, takeaways, biscuits, chips and sweets are all potential reasons for weight-gain.

The hormone, prolactin, which stimulates milk production, also stimulates appetite and encourages the body to lay down 2,5kg up to 5 kg of fat.

Women who gain more weight during pregnancy than the average pregnant woman have more to lose after giving birth.

As a new breastfeeding mom, what can you do to help slim down?

While you breastfeed, you should be able to safely add an additional 1250 kJ per day intake to your diet, but stick to the limit. Here are some tips on how to make steady weight loss happen for you:

  • eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • focus on eating healthily, sensibly and eating “for your hunger”
  • try to eat lean protein (to fill you up and will retain your muscle mass), high fibre (which adds bulk and not loads of kilojoules) as well as small portions of low G.I carbohydrates
  • focus on the “super-foods”: fish, lean meat, skinless chicken, beans and dairy products
  • plan and prep your snacks (cut up fresh fruit, raw vegetables and keep them ready in the fridge)
  • squeeze exercise sessions in around your new baby (go for a brisk walk in the fresh air, with your baby in a pram for half an hour) – remember to only start exercising 6-8 weeks after the birth
  • catch up on sleep: try to sleep when your baby sleeps
  • drink plenty of water – it makes you feel full for longer and prevents dehydration when breastfeeding (remember breast milk is 50% water!)
  • don’t mistake thirst for hunger: don’t automatically reach for the snack, rather reach for a glass of water
  • be realistic: it took you nine months to gain your pregnancy weight, so you aren’t going to lose it all overnight!
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So, while breastfeeding has a lot of benefits, don’t bargain on it getting you back into your summer wardrobe all on its own. Get back into an exercise routine and switch to those super-foods to watch extra weight melt away.

Joanne Hart for