“The weight just falls off when you breastfeed!” Does that phrase sound familiar to you?
This is a phrase nearly ALL expectant and postpartum moms are told, and for some of them this proves to be 100% true. However, for the large majority of moms this statement makes them feel like they are doing something wrong, because they actually really struggle to lose weight when breastfeeding.
Once a woman gives birth, besides being excited about the new member of your family, very often moms are pretty eager to lose the baby weight. Breastfeeding, if you can and choose to do so, can provide your baby with a wealth of nutrients, and it might aid with the fat loss process postpartum.
After an immediate postpartum weight loss of about 15 pounds, breastfeeding can help women lose an additional 1 to 2 pounds per month in the first six months after giving birth (Dewey, Heinig & Nommsen, 1993). Breastfeeding does this by using fat cells stored during pregnancy and from calories you consume in your diet to help produce milk and feed your baby.
Similar to the extra calories pregnant women are recommended to consume in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, experts suggest consuming about 500 to 700 more calories each day than you consumed pre-pregnancy to provide nutrients for your growing baby (Dewey, Heinig & Nommsen, 1993).
Lastly, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers consume at least 1800 calories per day so that milk production is not affected (La Leche League, 2010; Lauwers & Swisher, 2015). These calories should consist of nutrient-dense foods like lean protein, healthy fats (nuts, avocado, etc) as well as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like oats and brown rice.
If you follow these recommendations closely and are still unable to lose your pregnancy weight, then read below for five reasons this may be happening and tips to help you start dropping the pounds.
Reason 1: You’re eating too much
One reason that may be making it hard to lose the baby weight is that you’re eating too much. As mentioned earlier, a breastfeeding woman needs to eat 500 to 700 calories more per day than they would eat to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight to support milk production and feed your baby (3). An example of this is a one-ounce piece of wheat bread with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a cup of 2% milk, which is equal to about 300 calories. Add about one cup of yogurt and a cup of blueberries to this and you reach about 500 calories.
So, if you’re eating more than this, it’s likely you’re not losing weight because your body is consuming more than it’s burning. It may help to track your calories for a few days to see what you’re consuming and adjust your calories as needed. If you’re not sure how many calories you should consume to both nourish your baby and help with weight loss the 4 Weeks To Fit Transformation provides you with workout plans to help you burn calories and with a state-of-the-art calorie calculator that was developed by a Registered Dietitian, and it tells you exactly how much you should be eating.
Reason 2: You’re eating too little
On the other end of the spectrum, you may not be losing the baby weight because you’re not eating enough for both you and the baby. If this is the case, then you may be consuming much less than your body needs to support the energy needs of you and baby. Over time, this can lead to slower basal metabolic rate and NEAT, which can make you feel lethargic and low in energy. This means you won’t be moving as much and not burn as many calories.
Reason 3: You’re not moving as much
Breastfeeding is a full-time job in itself since the average exclusively breastfed baby can nurse anywhere from 4 to 13 times per day. And many times, breastfeeding is done in a seated position, which means you’re not moving as much for a good part of the day.
Not to mention that caring for a baby in all other ways may not allow much time for working out. Therefore, if you’re not burning as many calories as you used to before pregnancy or during pregnancy, but you’re consuming similar calories daily, then this could be making it hard to lose weight by affecting your energy balance- calories in vs calories out.
Instead of cutting calories that you and your baby need for energy, you can try and find time to creatively get more movement in during each day. For example, you could:
- take a walk with the baby in the stroller so you can get extra steps in around your neighborhood or the park.
- break your usual workout into 5- and 10-minute intervals that you can engage in while the baby is sleeping in between feedings.
- Sign up for a program that allows you to do the workouts at your own time, without having to schedule a specific time with a trainer. Check out the 4 Weeks to Fit Transformation.
Reason 4: Lack of sleep
Having a baby can rob mamas of the sleep they need to not only feel alert and motivated, but it can also impact hormones. Sleep experts report that a lack of sleep can increase the release of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, while decreasing the hunger-regulating hormone leptin (6). In turn, it’s likely that you will eat more when sleep-deprived then you normally would.
Therefore, you should try and sleep for at least 7 hours each night to prevent this (7). This can be a tall task since baby keeps mama very busy, but there are ways to help your body rest during the day that you can try such as:
Lying down even if you can’t sleep
This means limiting screen time and chores during any breaks you may have in your day and just rest your body.
Ask for help
Whether it’s your partner, your good friend, or your parents, see if they can assist you in watching your little one or helping with house chores so you can grab some shut-eye or just rest for a bit.
Reduce caffeine intake
Often if you feel tired, you may reach for a cup of coffee to make you feel more alert. However, caffeine can mask how tired you really are and can make it more difficult to fall asleep when you do have the moment to do so.
Not to mention that experts suggest consuming no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (equal to about 2-3 cups of coffee) while breastfeeding (8). Drinking more than this may cause your baby to be fussy and make it harder for them to sleep since the baby absorbs about 7-10% of the caffeine you consume. And if the baby doesn’t sleep well, then neither will mama.
Reason 5: Hormones
If none of the above four reasons apply to you, but you’re still having trouble losing your pregnancy weight, then you may be dealing with a hormonal issue. The most common hormones that can lead to weight gain include:
Cortisol: Being a mom is a stressful job, and in turn it can release more of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol in turn can promote weight gain in some people many times by affecting energy balance.
Ghrelin and Leptin: As mentioned before, a lack of sleep can increase ghrelin levels and decrease leptin levels, in turn leading to cravings and eating more calories than you usually do .
Prolactin: This important hormone that helps mama to produce milk can also increase risk of weight gain in excessive amounts. Therefore, it may help to have your prolactin levels checked if you are having trouble losing weight after pregnancy.
Thyroid hormones: Experts report that thyroid function can decrease during and after pregnancy, and in turn this could impact your ability to lose weight. Therefore, if you’re having trouble losing weight after pregnancy, but are eating healthy and sleeping well, then you should ask your doctor to check your thyroid function.
Having a baby can be an exciting time in your life that you should cherish. But it should also be a time when you make sure you take care of yourself so you can best take care of the baby. This means feeding your body with plenty of nutrient dense food, nourishing your body with sleep and exercise whenever possible, and seeing your doctor regularly to check up on everything. When you are at your healthiest, both you and baby will benefit.
If you are looking for a program that can help you in this stage of life and help you shed the baby weight from home or the gym, fit back in into your pre-pregnancy clothes, AND show up as the best version of yourself to your family… Come join the next 4 Weeks To Fit Transformation, which for a limited time only I am allowing you to pay what you can to join the program. Join here.