Weight Loss Supplements While Breastfeeding

Young woman holding baby son in blanket
Weight-loss supplements may not be safe to take while breastfeeding. (Image: Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images)

You had the baby, and now you're ready to lose the weight. Weight loss supplements may be tempting, but if you're breastfeeding, you might want to consider other options. It's not known how these types of supplements affect the baby, and you're better off not taking them at all. Consult your obstetrician to discuss the use of weight-loss supplements while nursing and other healthy ways to lose the baby weight.

Weight-Loss Supplements

Many over-the-counter weight-loss supplements help you lose by acting as a diuretic so you lose water weight, stimulate your nervous system to up energy levels and activity, or increase serotonin levels so you feel full and eat less. While these types of supplements may help you lose weight, they don't typically offer long-term results. Losing water weight through a diuretic effect is actually counterproductive because your body needs adequate fluid to produce breast milk. The supplements may also contain substances that could adversely affect your baby.

Weight-Loss Supplements in Breastmilk

While many breastfeeding women take a variety of different supplements, the information regarding the safety of these supplements is not reliable, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Plus, these types of supplements are not regulated like medication, and manufacturers do not have to prove effectiveness or safety before the supplement hits the market.

Some weight-loss ingredients are known to be harmful if you're breastfeeding. Stimulants such as ginseng, yerba mate, green tea or guarana may affect your infant's sleep or feeding, and they may even be dangerous, according to Kelly Bonyata, a lactation specialist writing for KellyMom.com. An ingredient called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5HTP, may affect your milk supply or your baby's neurological development and should be avoided while nursing.

Let Breastfeeding Help You Lose

When you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Breastfeeding alone burns 500 to 600 calories daily, so you're already ahead of the game. That extra calorie burn may help you lose the baby weight or even take you below your pre-pregnancy weight. However, you should not focus on losing baby weight until after six weeks after giving birth; otherwise, it might affect your supply of milk and slow healing from childbirth. Remember: It takes nine months to gain the weight during pregnancy, so you should give yourself time to lose it.

Diet and Exercise While Breastfeeding

Instead of trying a supplement that may not work and may be harmful to your baby, aim to lose weight the healthy way by making changes to your diet and exercise routine. Fill your plate with nutrient-rich low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and nonfat dairy, instead of processed foods such as cake, cookies, fast food, fried food and soda. Eat small frequent meals to keep hunger away and energy levels up. Drink plenty of water, at least 8 cups a day. Breastfeeding requires a lot of fluid, so you'll want to stay hydrated. Drinking water might also help you lose weight, since thirst is often mistaken for hunger. When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes -- the "hunger" may pass.

Like breastfeeding, exercise also helps burn calories. Plus, it may help give you a boost of energy. Wait until your obstetrician gives the OK after your six-week postpartum checkup, then start slow and do exercises that work with your schedule. A stroller walk with the baby, a mommy-and-me class, or some body resistance exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups and lunges during nap time.

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