After spending around nine months being pregnant, watching your body grow, change, and stretch it may now feel and look very different from how it was before you had your baby, and you may be starting to wonder how to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight and shape.
Like many new mums, you may have heard that breastfeeding helps you lose weight. So let’s find out does breastfeeding helps you lose weight naturally and if it could help you too.
How much weight do you gain during pregnancy?
For mums-to-be, some gestational weight gain is a natural part of the process of nurturing their baby while it’s in the womb. During pregnancy your body develops extra body tissue (bigger breasts, a growing uterus) and increases the production of the blood and fluids that support the healthy development of your child.
The amount of additional weight you may gain is dependent upon your age, calorie intake, health, and your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). Experts suggest that if you are in the healthy weight range before becoming pregnant (BMI 18.5-24.9), ideally you would gain between 11kg and 16kg. If you have a lower than normal BMI you may gain between 12kg to 18kg, and if you have a higher than normal BMI you could gain between 6kg to11kgs. Obviously, some mums gain more or less than these estimates and you should speak to your doctor about what is healthy for you.
Postpartum weight loss – what is realistic?
The time needed to lose weight postpartum varies from woman to woman. That said, you may lose up to 5 kilograms immediately when you give birth – depending on the size of your newborn, your placenta, and how much amniotic fluid you lose. Following that, new mums may take the first 6-12 weeks to let their body heal and get to know their baby. After that time they may then start to focus on losing the extra weight.
When it comes to losing baby weight, it is important that you prioritise your health and the health of your baby above dropping the extra kilos. As a new mum you should discuss any weight loss plans with your doctor or obstetrician as they will know your individual circumstances best and help you lose weight in a healthy way.
These health professionals are likely to advise that you do not undertake any rapid weight loss or crash diet. This is to help both you and baby to remain healthy… and because crash dieting doesn’t work for long-term weight loss. When you go on a crash diet your body tends to burn muscle and lose water weight, instead of burning fat. This makes keeping the weight off a lot more difficult than if you had lost weight over a longer period of time.
At The Healthy Mummy we recommend that you aim to lose no more than 0.5 to 1 kilogram of weight per week. So depending on your weight loss goals you may take weeks, months, or a year or more to lose your baby weight. The key is to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes that get you the results you want. Losing baby weight in a sustainable way will set up both yourself and your family for healthier life in the longer term and ensure you maintain your milk supply so your baby gets all the nutrients it needs.
How does breastfeeding effect weight loss?
Does breastfeeding help you lose weight? The amount of weight loss you experience postpartum, whether you are breastfeeding or not, is impacted by a lot of things including your age, calorie intake, pre-pregnancy weight, how physically active you are, hormones, sleep, stress……and more. Because of this it is tricky to say just how or if breastfeeding will help you lose weight.
While many nursing mothers report that breastfeeding helped them regain their pre-baby figure more quickly, others either notice no change or even gain weight while breastfeeding. So what is it about breastfeeding that influences weight loss?
Well, firstly, breastfeeding burns an additional 300 to 500 calories per day. The actual amount of calories you burn will depend on how often you breastfeed, how much milk you produce, and your babies age – mums breastfeeding a younger child tend to burn more calories. Burning 300 to 500 extra calories may sound like the perfect, natural way to lose baby weight but to ensure that you maintain healthy milk supply most lactation consultants suggest that new mums increase their calorie intake by around 500 calories daily.
The other reason for increasing your calorie intake is that it can help you lose more weight. Sounds counter intuitive, but many mums don’t consume enough calories while trying to lose weight. Restricting your calorie intake can slow down your metabolic rate and stall your weight loss. If you are wondering how many calories you need to consume each day to lose weight, you can find out more here. Or if you’re a Healthy Mummy 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge member you can use our 5 star rated app to calculate your calories and adjust your meal plans to suit your needs.
The second thing that impacts weight loss while breastfeeding is the hormone prolactin. Prolactin production is elevated during pregnancy and stimulates milk production during breastfeeding. There’s research evidence that suggests prolactin may slow fat metabolism and act as an appetite stimulant. Which may explain why some mums are soooo hungry when they breastfeed and others put on weight.
As you can see whether or not you lose weight while breastfeeding is going to depend on many factors. It is not a given that every new mum will lose weight as a direct result of breastfeeding. So lets look at some other factors that may help you reach you stay healthy, maintain milk supply and shed the extra baby weight.
What other factors will help lose baby weight when breastfeeding?
Eating well when you’re a nursing mother means following a healthy balanced diet with a good variety and quantity of nutritious foods from all the food groups. As mentioned previously crash diets and calorie cutting deplete your body’s store of nutrients and may risk your short- and long-term health, reduce your energy levels, and potentially interfere with your breast milk supply.
While breastfeeding, certain nutrients and fluids will be in higher demand. If you’re eating a healthy diet, you’ll be getting enough of most nutrients, but be aware that the need for specific nutrients may go up. You will want to make sure you are getting the recommended daily dose of iodine, zinc, iron, protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B12, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and calcium.
The Healthy Mummy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge has been providing new mums with healthy, balanced weekly meal plans for over 10 years now. The challenge helps you develop lifelong healthy eating habits with over 4,500 nutritionist designed simple, budget and family friendly recipes. The weekly challenge meal plans are fully customisable to suit your diet requirements and help you save time – perfect for busy new mums. Plus there are loads of easy to prepare snacks for new mums – check out these 10.
The Challenge’s 5 star rated app will also help you keep track of how much water you consume each day. Drinking enough water helps with keeping up your milk supply. You can get some advice here to know if you are drinking enough water and if you need to increase your intake, here are five tips that may help you drink more water. Also, if you find having a glass of water if is not something you drink, consider drinking green tea which may also help you lose weight. Find Out what to eat when breastfeeding!
Overall though, if you feel like you struggle to get enough of the nutrients you need, you may consider taking supplements or using meal replacement smoothies.
Should you take supplements or use meal replacement shakes when breastfeeding?
While a healthy diet is the best way to get all the nutrients you require while lactating, there’s no question that taking supplements can help support or replenish your stores of the required vitamins and minerals. But it’s important to be mindful of the ingredients and additives when choosing supplements, since some may not be safe for breastfeeding mothers.
The Healthy Mummy Smoothie is a great meal replacement option as it contains all the essential elements of a nutritious meal, along with ingredients like fenugreek and flaxseed that can help support your milk supply. A smoothie for breakfast and/or lunch is a quick and easy way to reduce sugar cravings and ensure you’re eating well, even when you’re pushed for time – and we know new mums are always short on time.
Our smoothies are accelerant, filler, caffeine, wheat, GMO, and dairy free. They are great source of protein and contain whole foods, over 24 vitamins and minerals, and do not use artificial sweeteners. They are perfect for busy mums. Find out more about why Healthy Mummy smoothies are different and why they are great for breastfeeding mums. PLUS see some of the results that our mums have got while using them.
Another great supplement that can help you get your required nutrients is the Healthy Mummy Super Greens. It’s great tasting drink with a slight cranberry taste that is breastfeeding safe and free from preservatives. It contains over 37 quality alkaline superfood ingredients, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fibre. In one glass you’ll get spirulina, flaxseed, pea protein, organic barley grass, chlorella, chia, goji berry, kale, spinach, mushroom powder and dandelion. This powerful blend of nutrients to will boost your immune system and give you the energy you need to get through the day.
While protein is also considered an an essential macro-nutrient required by everyone for optimal health. Amino acids, that are the building blocks of protein, are used by your body during pregnancy to help your baby develop like keratin and collagen, that are important for healthy bones, skin, joints, tendons and ligaments. Experts recommend women who are pregnant and nursing take a minimum of an extra 25 grams of protein a day. Finding ways to increase your protein intake from lean protein may be difficult (especially if you follow a a vegan or vegetarian diet). If you relate to that, you may consider using protein shakes to boost your intake.
The Healthy Mummy protein powder is a good source of high quality whey protein with 28 grams per serve. This high quality protein powder is breastfeeding friendly and is perfect to add to your smoothie or use in your baking (check out this recipe). We also have delicious, all natural, protein ball snacks that are easy make (no baking required) and contain whole food ingredients with 3g of protein per ball.
No healthy lifestyle is complete without some kind of physical activity. It can make you feel great and help you tone up, increase muscle mass, and lose weight. We must stress though that postpartum mums need to take care with what sort of exercise they start doing and when. Consulting your doctor before you start any exercise plan is recommended.
One thing we do know is that finding time to exercise with a new baby can be a challenge. You’re tired, your body is still recovering from giving birth and there just doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day. To help get you started we recommend a 15-20 minute power walk with the baby in the stroller to make you feel recharged both physically and mentally.
Later, once your energy levels improve and body is ready, you could start to do more physically demanding exercises or sports. If you struggle to get to a gym or construct your own exercise plan, The Healthy Mummy can help. The 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge has over 350 workouts inside our 5 star rated app. You get a daily exercise plan that is based on your goals and current fitness level. We have HIIT, DanceFit, yoga, boxing, Tabata, belly and booting busting, muscle separation, baby wearing, weight training and more, plus LIVE workouts with real mums and expert trainers.
Exercise will also help you relieve the stress of being a new mother. It’s normal to feel some stress when you’re a new mum. Getting some exercise in your day is a great, natural way to boost your mood. Reducing stress will also help your milk supply and breast milk quality. While your milk supply is not directly affected by stress it may influence the amount, and quality of food and water you consume, which can impact your milk supply. Reducing stress will also help improve the amount and quality of sleep you have. Lack of sleep can increase hunger and sugar cravings, which is not going to help you reach your goals. Here are some tips to help for new mums prioritise sleep again.
Overall, being a new mum is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. It is also a time to take care of yourself as well as your baby, especially if you are breastfeeding. Weight loss while breastfeeding is possible, but not all mums will lose weight while breastfeeding. A focus on staying healthy, eating a balanced, nutrient dense diet, and doing some form of appropriate postpartum exercise will help ensure you, your baby, and your whole family will be healthy and happy.
Bonus gift for you
To say thanks for being part of the Healthy Mummy community we have put together a FREE Milk Supply Boosting eBook with SUPER DELICIOUS recipes that will help both boost your milk supply and your mood. Get your FREE eBOOK DOWNLOAD here