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Trouble Losing Weight While Breastfeeding

author image Meg Campbell
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Trouble Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
A woman is holding her newborn baby. Photo Credit: FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

Women of a healthy weight can expect to gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy and lose only about 14 of those pounds upon delivery. After the first postpartum month, non-lactating new mothers can safely lose about 2 pounds per week, or 8 pounds per month. For a number of reasons, mothers who breastfeed should lose weight at a much slower rate. If you’re having trouble losing any weight at all, minor lifestyle changes can set you in the right direction.

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Quick Weight Loss

Your body requires calories to produce breastmilk. While there’s no specific number of calories you should eat to maintain your supply, general recommendations fall between 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day. Severely restricting your caloric intake in an effort to lose weight can diminish your milk supply. If you eat too few calories for several days, you may not notice an immediate change in your milk, your baby’s feeding schedule or his weight gain. However, once your supply becomes affected, your baby will likely feed less often and get less milk at each feeding, slowing his growth rate. Quick weight loss can also release fat-stored toxins, such as mercury, dioxin and PCBs, into your bloodstream and, consequently, your breastmilk.

Slow Weight Loss

Your ability to lose weight while breastfeeding depends on your activity level, caloric intake, dietary choices and metabolism. A safe rate of weight loss for lactating mothers is 1 to 2 pounds . per month, starting after the first postpartum month. If you nurse your baby for 12 months, you could safely lose up to 22 pounds without compromising your health or your milk supply. Unless you’re overweight, losing more than 4.5 pounds per month is considered too much. Overweight women can lose up to 1.5 pounds per week, or 6 pounds per month, without adversely affecting their milk supply.

Dietary Changes

If you’re having trouble losing the recommended 1 to 2 pounds per month, assess your dietary choices. One of the primary rules governing breastfeeding is that you shouldn’t allow yourself to be hungry. Don’t prevent yourself from experiencing an initial hunger pang by eating too much or too often. Instead, respond to your body when you feel hungry. To stay healthy, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Limit processed foods or foods with added sugars, both of which are high in empty calories.

Physical Activity

Incorporate exercise or other physical activity into your routine to help you achieve a healthy weight loss. Because you have to burn about 3,500 calories more than you consume to lose a pound of fat, try to burn up to an additional 7,000 calories per month to lose 2 pounds. This amounts to approximately 117 to 233 fewer calories a day — which you can achieve by going for a walk. If you don’t yet have time for exercise, try to be as active as you can around the house. Stand more than you sit, walk around more often and perform light housework on a daily basis.

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