Q&A: Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

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I tried to take a picture “recreating” my pregnant belly after my baby was born. Too bad my remaining pregnant weight gain was in the way…

Q: Hey lady, I love all your posts. Just thought I’d take a shot at it and ask if you have any tips for a breastfeeding mom to lose weight. I’ve always struggled. Right before I got pregnant I was working out and eating well but still struggle to get the scale to budge. I get my thyroid checked yearly so that’s not it. Any eating advice to maybe help lose weight but not decrease my milk supply?

A: Thanks for the great question. One of my good dietitian friends, Jessica Clayton, actually works as a lactation consultant. She graciously agreed to write a guest post answering this question. Thanks to Jessica!

Having a baby is quite an event and can certainly change habits as far as diet/exercise go. Many mother’s ask me about losing weight WHILE breastfeeding. The answer is probably one you have heard before – slow and steady: don’t restrict calories excessively and moderately exercise.

It is ideal to wait until baby is 2 months of age before actively focusing on calorie intake and exercising. Take small, gradual steps to decrease calorie intake, and increase exercise. Any extreme can cause a notable decrease in milk supply.

Most mothers need an extra 300-500 calories a day to support breastfeeding. This isn’t a ton of extra food; a large apple and some cheese or peanut butter would suffice. Obtaining advice from a Registered Dietitian for your particular needs may be helpful. Generally 1500-1800 calories as a minimum while breastfeeding is a good place to start. It is recommended moderate weight loss while breastfeeding should not exceed one pound a week.

Adjusting to life with a new baby and then getting back into an active routine of health can be a struggle. Here are a few quick tips to help find balance:

1. Make sure healthy snacks are available for you while breastfeeding.

2. Use “Mindful Eating” techniques.

3. Involve baby in your exercises by playing with him/her.

4. Keep protein intake up (most mother’s need 65 gm/day.)

5. Avoid periods of fasting by eating smaller meals more frequently.

6. If supply does seem to slow down, try to increase demand by feeding more frequently or pumping.

You are not alone. Many women that I have worked with have a struggle to lose those last pesky 5 pounds (and sometimes more) until they stop breastfeeding all together. Your body stores fat during pregnancy, and part of this is to support breastfeeding. We are all different, so avoid comparing yourself to the mom down the street that basically was back into her skinny jeans the day she got home from the hospital. Listen to your body, and find the right balance regardless of those scale numbers.

For more information see Anne Smith’s Article here: http://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/nutrition-exercise-and-weight-loss/3

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Jessica is a Registered Dietitian specializing in lactation care at the University of Utah hospital. She can be contacted via breastfeedingbond@gmail.com

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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