Weight and Breast Feeding

Weight and Breast Feeding

Naturopath Stephanie Hamilton discusses how to safely lose the post-birth baby fat and looks at the importance of maintaining a healthy weight during this time.

Losing the extra weight you gained during pregnancy depends on many factors, such as activity levels. Also, how much weight you gained during pregnancy, whether you are exclusively breast-feeding, and, of course, your diet will all play a role in getting you back in shape. It’s all about taking it slow and steady to achieve the best results.

Stick to the pregnancy guidelines

While some new mums find it easy to lose weight during breast-feeding, some find it much harder. Research shows that it may reflect how well you stuck to the weight guidelines in pregnancy.

There is evidence suggesting that weight gains in pregnancy exceeding the Institute of Medicine guidelines were associated with greater weight retention up to 3 years after the birth.

Breast-feeding: Natural weight loss

It will be easier to lose the pregnancy weight if you don’t gain too much in pregnancy and you breast-feed. Some studies estimate that in women who exclusively breastfeed, 400-600 extra calories (approx 1680-2520 kilojoules) are used a day to produce milk. This is roughly the equivalent of doing just under an hour of circuit training every day!

Take it slow and be realistic

Quick-fix weight loss programs and products are not encouraged during breast-feeding as this may interfere with the quality of your breast milk. Approaching weight loss in a holistic, realistic and balanced way is important to ensure you don’t compromise the nutritional quality of your milk supply. This is especially important in the first couple of months of your baby’s life. Cutting out calories at this time will not only affect your baby’s health, but you will feel tired, cranky and irritable. Be realistic about what you can manage and focus on recovery, establishing a routine, and choosing the healthiest food options.

Choose complex carbs

If you are burning all those extra calories whilst breast-feeding, then naturally your appetite will increase in response. It is very common for breast-feeding women to crave sugar, sugar and more sugar! However, if you choose the wrong type of sugar, you could be contributing to weight gain. Avoid too many lollies and chocolates, stick to fruit and dates for something sweet and always combine these with a handful of nuts or yoghurt to keep your energy sustained and your appetite satisfied for longer.

Get active

This doesn’t mean going for an 8 km run every day. It might be enough for you to take a brisk stroll around the block a couple of times a week. Stick to what you can manage and listen to your body. If you are severely sleep-deprived and only have a couple of hours in your day to either sleep or go for a walk, the obvious choice would be to sleep. You will find that the more sleep you get, the easier it will be to find the energy to stay motivated to move.

Need more help?

See a healthcare professional after your pregnancy if you are finding it difficult to lose weight. Some professional guidance may be all you need to get you back on track.

Every woman is different

Remember that not everyone will have the same experience. While some women whip back into shape after 6 weeks, others can take up to 12 months to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. Don’t let the scales govern your sense of how healthy you are. As long as you stick to the healthy eating principles and exercise when possible your body will be healthy…and your baby will be too.

References available on request

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