It’s totally possible to lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting your milk supply. I know because I did it! In fact, breastfeeding is a great tool to actually help you lose more weight after pregnancy. It’s a little bit trickier than losing weight at any other time of your life because you have the baby to consider, and you still need to take in enough calories to keep up your supply. But it can be done!
My experience losing weight while breastfeeding
Pregnancy books and health professionals will tell you that you should only gain 25-30 pounds during pregnancy. While that may be the ideal, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gained more than that!
I gained over 50 pounds with each of my pregnancies.
And not because I was a couch potato giving in to every pregnancy craving.
I was super health conscious throughout both of my pregnancies: I did my best to eat well and I exercised several times a week all the way up until my due date.
I’m fairly small when not pregnant, so I think my body just knew that I needed a little extra weight to support the baby. My doctors never gave me a hard time about my weight.
After I had the babies, I lost quite a bit of weight right away. There’s a lot of weight that comes off immediately when the baby is born: the baby itself, the placenta, and a lot of fluid. I was about 20 pounds lighter when I came in for my two-week postpartum visit.
How can I lose weight without losing my milk supply?
A lot of women avoid working out and dieting when breastfeeding because they think that their milk supply will go down if they do. The evidence seems pretty clear that it’s safe for nursing mothers to work out – you don’t need to worry about your milk supply going down just because you exercised. Continue to trust your body to provide for your baby!
If you do think your milk supply has dropped, stop and think before you reach for a bottle of formula or quit exercising. Are you drinking enough water to stay hydrated while you’re exercising? Are you consuming enough quality calories? Think fruits, veggies, and lean protein, not pop tarts.
Also make sure that you’re breastfeeding often enough to keep your supply up. Waiting too long between feedings or skipping them altogether is a bad idea if you’re worried about your supply!
How many calories should I eat to lose weight while breastfeeding?
It’s generally recommended that nursing mothers take in at least 1800 calories a day. That may seem like a lot for when you’re trying to diet to lose weight, but remember that producing milk for a baby can require up to 500 calories a day! So you’re really eating only about 1200-1300 calories for yourself, and the rest goes to your baby.
You definitely want to avoid drastically cutting out a lot of calories from your diet all at once. This can cause your body to go into starvation mode and it may quit making milk to reserve resources. (Kelly Mom)
So don’t skip meals or go on a crazy juice cleanse.
What diet is best for breastfeeding moms?
If you want to lose weight as a breastfeeding mother, the most important thing you can do is eat real food. Stay away from fast foods, processed foods, and sweets. Instead, eat lots of lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains.
If it comes in a box, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.!
I never worried about how many calories I was consuming when I was breastfeeding as long as I was eating food that was good for me.
If you want to go on a planned diet, some of the more popular ones have modifications for nursing mothers that you could look into. Some diets, like keto, are definitely not recommended for breastfeeding. So be sure to do your research and avoid diets that aren’t a good choice for you right now.
Does nursing make it harder to lose weight?
It’s pretty commonly thought that breastfeeding will help you lose weight after pregnancy. And it makes sense. Your body is working hard and burning calories to feed your baby, so it seems natural that the baby weight would just fall off as you continue to breastfeed.
For a lot of women, it does work that way.
But for others things aren’t quite so simple. There are a lot of reasons that you might find it hard to lose weight while breastfeeding.
You might be really hungry when you breastfeed and accidentally consume more calories than you really need. It could be the lack of sleep or the stress of having a new baby.
Whatever the reason, try to give yourself a little grace during this season. It’s OK if you don’t get back to your pre-pregnancy weight 3 months after you have the baby. Your body is doing an amazing thing by feeding this baby and it’s totally worth it.
The importance of exercise to lose weight while breastfeeding
After my first baby, I tried to start my exercise routine back up again at three weeks postpartum. This was too soon! I was a little stupid back then and unnecessarily pushed myself too hard.
After my second baby, I took almost a full two months off from exercise. Apart from a leisurely stroll here and there, I took all of that time to rest and let my body recover and heal. I started slowly incorporated exercise back into my routine after about two months. I started off slowly and gradually worked my way back to more difficult workouts.
It can be frustrating when you can barely make it through a workout that you could do without breaking a sweat just a few months ago, but it’s important to give yourself grace. You just created a human being, and there’s nothing more amazing that the human body can do.
One thing that helped me to bounce back relatively quickly after having a baby was the fact that I stayed active all throughout my pregnancies. If I had tried to start exercising for the first time just a few weeks after I had a baby, I don’t think my results would have been nearly as good.
My body was already in relatively good condition before having the baby, so it wasn’t hard to jump back into my exercise routine. So if you’re reading this and are still fairly early on in pregnancy, start working out now if you want to be able to lose the baby weight!
Ways to exercise with a baby
Go for a walk! Walking is great because it’s super safe, easy, and you can do it with the baby without much trouble. You will probably find that it puts the baby in a better mood as well!
YouTube also has tons of amazing workouts that are totally free. It’s like having a personal trainer come right to your living room. You can easily do a quick video while the baby is napping, or set them up to watch you exercise.
I loved holding my baby and using her as a little extra weight whenever it was appropriate; it helped keep her entertained and happy. My favorite YouTube fitness channels are Fitness Blender and Popsugar Fitness.
I continued exercising consistently about four days a week every week once I got back into the swing of things.
Remember, it’s important to know that exercise should not affect your milk supply. If you think your milk supply is dropping, there are lots of other possible causes. Try to figure out what else might be causing the drop in supply before you give up on exercise.
You can lose weight while breastfeeding!
I know eating well can be hard right after you have a baby: cooking is the last thing on your mind, especially in those first few weeks! I recommend building up a supply of healthy freezer meals before you have the baby so that it’s easier to avoid getting takeout at the last minute. Home delivery meal services like Hello Fresh and Dinnerly are great options if you have the budget for it!
I don’t own a scale so I don’t know exactly when I finally got back to my pre-baby weight. (I try not to obsess over weight, and if I had a scale I would probably weigh myself daily.) I do know that with both babies, I had lost all of the weight by one year postpartum. I nursed both of my babies for over a year, so know that you can definitely lose weight while breastfeeding!
Your body may never be quite the same as it was before babies, but there’s no reason for you to have to hang on to all of those extra pounds while you breastfeed. With proper nutrition and a plan to make exercise a part of your daily routine, you can absolutely lose weight while breastfeeding!
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.