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Midwife explains everything you need to know about breastfeeding and weight loss

Weight gain is a normal and necessary occurrence in pregnancy but the reflection of a new postpartum body can shock even the most confident women.

The once tight bowling ball that housed the infant is replaced by loose skin and separated abs. Adjusting to this post pregnancy shape can be difficult and overwhelming for some so if understandable that lots of new moms are keen to loose the extra pounds and get back to their pre-pregnancy self.

So can you successfully combine breastfeeding and weight loss? And does breastfeeding help or hinder weight loss?

Healthy Mommy’s midwife and lactation consultant, Bel Moore, gives us the answers and some helpful tips!

Everything you need to know about breastfeeding and weight loss

Does breastfeeding aid weight loss?

Well.. Kind of! Weight loss occurs when the body is using more energy than it is taking in from food and breastfeeding burns approximately 500-850 calories per day (or the same as 20-30 minutes of running).

So, with a healthy diet and some exercise breastfeeding may assist in weight loss. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers tend to lose more weight from 3-6 months postpartum compared to formula fed babies and this may be because the release of prolactin (needed for milk production) assists in the mobilisation of fat stores laid down the adipose tissue.

Does breastfeeding hinder weight loss?

Not exactly but factors surrounding breastfeeding can place limits on some mothers weight loss ability.

Breastfeeding can make you feel hungry (due to the calories and energy used to make milk) which combined with lack of sleep can contribute to high carb/sugar snack choices.

Empty calories in junk food may mitigate the calories used by breastfeeding and reduce the chance of weight loss.

Researchers have also found that although breast size has little impact on a women ability to produce milk, but it may affect storage capacity, meaning there body may find producing milk more taxing.

Experts believe that some women may hang on to more fat to help produce breast milk. Some women may find vigorous exercises uncomfortable with heavy or full breast or not know how long they can leave their baby if they wish to work out alone. Check out this article.

Will losing weight affect my supply?

While breastfeeding, it is best to lose the extra weight gradually by using healthy eating principles and adding in some exercise as apposed to crash diets, restrictions and rapid weight loss.

Although milk composition stays relatively the same regardless of maternal diet, it is the mother that will miss out on vital vitamins and minerals if not eating a healthy, nutritious diet most of the time.

Research has shown a loss of about a pound a week is safe for breastfeeding mothers and will have no effect on supply. Exercise will assist in weight loss (by burning extra calories) but also increase aerobic fitness, reduce the risk of postnatal depression, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and will strengthen bones and muscles.

Research has found that mild to moderate exercise has no effect on milk supply or the nutrient composition of breast milk. The exercises in the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge are safe and effective for postnatal women.

Close-up of a baby breastfeeding. The mother's hand holds his head. Focus on the baby's mouth.

Top tips for combining weight loss and breastfeeding:

  • Be kind to yourself. You grew a baby and are now sustaining it with your milk.
  • Rapid weight loss can cause supply issues especially when your milk is regulating to babies needs. It’s best to wait at least 6 weeks before starting to actively lose weight to ensure an adequate milk supply, your body will naturally shed some weight in this time so don’t panic.
  • Make smart dietary changes. Follow Healthy Mommy meal plans and check out these one handed healthy snacks.
  • Drink to thirst. Breastfeeding can make you thirsty (due to using extra fluid and the hormone oxytocin to release milk). Carry a drink bottle with you or put some around the house to make sure you’re drinking enough. Water intake helps to flush toxins. If you feel hungry, try a glass of water and sometimes the signals can get confused.
  • Plan ahead. Breastfeeding means you may have to take time out to feed. Put the slow cooker on in the morning or have easy snacks like bliss balls to grab before a feed.
  • Spread your intake out over the day. Have smaller meals with snacks throughout the day to ensure your body doesn’t go into starvation mode or you overindulge.
  • Organise mothers group meet ups at the park or beach instead of the coffee shop so you can get in some exercise and avoid the cake.
  • Use a baby carrier or pram to exercise with your baby. The Healthy Mommy exercises can be done at home when your baby is sleeping or playing.
  • Feed before exercise for comfort and to give yourself the most amount of time before the next feed.

Access recipes and exercises to help you stay healthy while breastfeeding.

Regain your body confidence with The Healthy Mommy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge.

Our Challenge is designed by moms FOR MOMS – to help them reach their goal weight and tackle their health and fitness.

The Challenge is home to customizable meal plans, 24/7 social support and realistic exercises moms can do AT HOME.

To find out more on the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge click here.

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