You may have heard that, among the many benefits of breastfeeding, mums who nurse will be on a fast track to getting their body back. While research has shown that breastfeeding mothers tend to burn an average of 500 additional calories daily, it takes more than choosing a crash diet and crazy exercise regime.
While it’s possible to lose weight while breastfeeding, you also have to take into account your body type, sleep, stress and eating habits, physical activity, hormone changes, total pregnancy weight gain and, and the number of previous pregnancies as additional factors that will help you return to your pre-baby weight. Here are some ways to lose that baby weight safely while breastfeeding.
Sleep As Much As You Can
While exhaustion is part of the childbirth recovery period, the amount of sleep needed increases in the fourth trimester and especially for breastfeeding parents. Studies have linked sleep deprivation to weight gain and obesity, so look to get as much rest as possible. Talk to your partner, family, friends and other hired help about your needs to make sure that you’re getting the sleep that you need. While sleeping pre- and post-baby are different experiences, the techniques can still be useful. If you had a prenatal routine, try to stick to is (as much as humanly possible) post-baby
Eat a Healthy and Well-Balanced Diet
More important than exercise is what you’re eating every day. Breastfeeding requires nutrients for both yourself and your growing baby and consuming less than 1500-1800 calories a day may put your milk supply at risk. It’s completely normal to feel constant hunger while breastfeeding, so say no to processed foods and pick up ones that are rich in protein and fibre – which can make you feel fuller, longer. Go for fruits and vegetables, lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, and protein powders) and healthy fats (almonds, walnuts hemp seeds, chia seeds avocados). Keep nutritious foods visible and easily accessible.
Despite what most women think, moderate exercise does not negatively affect your milk supply. When your doctor gives you the go-ahead (see note below), combining cardiovascular training with light weightlifting can help you preserve muscle mass, rev your metabolism, and help your body to burn calories even when you’re at rest. Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week. Even though you will be tired, exercise has been proven to improve the effects of sleep deprivation and could help in preventing postpartum depression. Consider getting a supportive, high-impact bra with adjustable straps to grow with the changing size of your breasts.
Your breastmilk is composed of approximately 90 percent water so it makes sense that staying hydrated can help increase your milk supply. As a rule, experts recommend that you drink 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t nursing. A simple way to figure out your hydration needs is to take your body weight and divide it by two. If you weigh 120 lbs., you should consume 64 oz. of fluid each day.
When you are nursing, you need to consume additional water above this recommended amount, and if you are starting an exercise regime, you will need even more. Note that drinking too much can negatively affect your milk supply. When you drink too much water, your body tries to restore the electrolyte balance in your body by dumping the excess water in the urine. This results in water being diverted away from your breasts, which can decrease your milk supply. Adding water-rich food to your diet, ensuring you always have a water bottle nearby, drinking to thirst and checking your urine is the best way to get the right amount of water for you.
Meet with a Nutritionist
You are not alone in this process. Both nutritionists and dietitians are available in Bermuda to help you meet your post-baby weight loss objectives. Make an appointment to see a specialist, especially one that has an interest in women throughout pregnancy and postpartum. They will discuss your goals and build a plan around your individual lifestyle.
As a new mom, it’s easy to put your needs last when you are putting your little ones first. Taking care of yourself by paying special attention to your sleeping, eating, exercise and hydration habits are the keys to losing weight safely while breastfeeding. The most important thing is to be patient with your body. It’s safe to lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week so growing impatient will only add stress. Think of how much time it took to put the weight on to build a complex system for your baby to thrive. It may take that long (or longer!) to get it off.
Note: Anyone who wants to start a weight loss program should consult with their physician or healthcare provider to rule out any health problems that would contraindicate the diet or exercise. Most doctors recommend that you don’t start to exercise until about 6 weeks after vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after c-section so that your uterus can have time to heal.