Breastfeeding, Dieting, and Weight Loss

Congratulations, you have a new baby! Amidst all the excitement and exhaustion, we know there’s one thought niggling at the back of your mind… when will I get out of these maternity clothes and back into clothes my “real” size?! Ah, have patience… Remember that your pregnancy weight wasn’t gained overnight. And for many moms, it won’t disappear that quickly, either.

The extra weight is there for a reason!

La Leche League points out that one reason you gained extra weight during pregnancy is so you would have plenty of reserves for feeding your baby. This is particularly reassuring for nursing mothers because it means that breastfeeding help in shedding these extra pounds, as the “reserve” are converted into nutritious breast milk for you baby.

Breastfeeding helps with weight loss

You may be surprised at how much weight you can loose in the early months by simply following a normal diet and eating when you’re hungry. The LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK says, “Breastfeeding mothers tend to lose more weight when their babies are three to six months old than formula-feeding mothers who consume fewer calories… Another study of mothers at one month postpartum found that mothers who breastfed (either exclusively or partially) had slimmer hips and weighed less than women whose babies received only formula…” (Yet another good reason to nurse your baby!)

Breastfeeding mothers can loose about one pound per week, while still consuming 1500 to 1800 calories per day.  The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board says that most nursing moms actually need more like 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day! It’s very important to eat well in order to feel good, prevent mood swings, and have energy to care for your baby (especially if you are compensating for lack of sleep!).

It’s interesting to note that the composition of your milk really does not vary much with your diet. LLLI points out that mothers in famine conditions can produce perfectly nutritious milk for their babies. The main reason it’s important to eat well during lactation is for yourself– your health may suffer if too many of your own reserves are used to provide milk. Be sure to take care of yourself by “eating to hunger” and “drinking to thirst.”

Exercise and Dieting

If you feel like to need to actively work to lose weight, it is best to wait at least 2 months for your body to recover from childbirth and establish a good milk supply. Starting a diet too soon after giving birth can delay your recovery, affect your milk supply, and make you feel more tired (and no one with a newborn needs to feel MORE tired!). Always check with your doctor about increasing your activity level or reducing your calorie intake.

Exercise, not just calorie-counting, is important if you want to loose weight.  Try to be more active, whether it means hitting the gym or just walking your baby in the stroller instead of driving everywhere.

Don’t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. It won’t help because you’ll be more likely to eat more at other meals. All you’ll accomplish is probably making yourself feel tired and grouchy. Breakfast really is important in helping you stay active and energized throughout the day. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of successful dieters eat breakfast daily.

Go Slow

BabyCenter explains another danger of strict, restrictive diets. Too-rapid weight loss can release toxins that are stored in your body fat into your bloodstream and milk supply. These toxins include environmental contaminants like the heavy metals lead and mercury, persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and dioxins, and solvents.

Be realistic about weight loss

You should know that not everyone is able to return to their exact pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Pregnancy often causes permanent changes such as a softer belly, a larger waistline, and wider hips. With this in mind, you might want to adjust your goals a bit. (For a reality check, see Baby Center’s photo gallery of real post-baby bellies.)

Make good food choices

Some good food choices include:

  • low-fat milk and dairy products
  • whole grain products like whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal
  • high-fiber, low fat fruits (like apples, oranges, and berries)
  • raw vegetables (like carrots, jicama, and red pepper strips)
  • broiled or baked foods rather than fried foods
  • limit sweets and processed snack foods
  • choose “good” fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) like olive oil, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
  • cut calories by drinking water instead of juice, soda, and coffee

Some suggestions for squeezing more fruits and veggies into your diet:

  • Make fruit (or veggie) smoothies
  • use fruit or vegetable salsas or sauces made from puréed vegetables over fish or chicken
  • add shredded carrots to your sandwich
  • try grilled vegetables,
  • try puréed vegetable soups. Puréeing gives you a creamy soup without having to add cream.

feature image from www.indidenim.com

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Comments

  1. Hi, I breastfeed my son, and followed a simple healthy diet. I was back in my clothes in no time. However I am now getting the last few pounds off after a year, but things are going well.

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