In this post, you’re going to learn everything you need to know on how to lose weight while breastfeeding.
Specifically you’ll learn:
- if it’s safe to diet while breastfeeding,
- how to lose weight while keeping your milk supply up, and
- how fast you can expect to lose postpartum weight.
Alright, let’s get started.
Can you lose weight while breastfeeding?
Yes, you can certainly lose weight while breastfeeding.
There are many women who are afraid that breastfeeding will stop them from losing weight. In fact, the opposite is true. Breastfeeding can help facilitate weight loss if you plan it accordingly.
Because breastfeeding burns calories.
Knowing this, the next step is to create a diet/meal plan that places you in a slight caloric deficit (aka consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain it’s body weight.)
Can you diet while breastfeeding? Is It Safe?
The next question you might be wondering is, “does dieting affect milk supply?”
The good news is- dieting while breastfeeding appears to be safe.
But first things first. Do not try to diet in the first 2-3 weeks postpartum.
Let your body adjust first.
If you are interested in trying a vegetarian, low carb, or keto style diet, it is important to plan it accordingly. See how your body responds to it and make changes as needed.
If you decide to start a diet, just make sure that you are giving your body:
- enough calories to support itself, and
- the proper amount of nutrients to support fat loss while maximizing breast milk production.
If you aren’t careful, excessive dieting can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. It is also likely that a crash diet can negatively impact your milk supply.
Check in with your doctor to get more personalized advice.
So yes, you can restrict calories but make sure you do it in a safe and gradual manner.
I’ll go over a few ways you can do this in just a moment.
How Can I Lose Weight Without Losing My Milk Supply?
Studies show that there doesn’t appear to be a negative relationship between weight loss and milk supply. However, these studies looked at women who lost a modest amount of weight during a 2 month time frame.
The effects of long term dieting with greater decreases in bodyweight are unknown.
So what can we take away from this?
You should lose weight gradually. Aim for no more than a 2 lb weight loss per week. You can do this through a combination of both diet and exercise.
Losing more than 2 lbs per week increases your risk of developing a decrease in your metabolic rate (aka metabolic adaptations) while decreasing your milk supply.
Now, let’s talk about how to do this the right way.
7 Tips to lose weight while breastfeeding
Okay, so let’s go over some strategies to help you lose weight while breastfeeding.
Before you start any type of diet or exercise plan, make sure that you evaluate how your body is responding to breastfeeding for a few weeks.
How is your energy level?
What about your hunger?
You may even notice that you will drop a few pounds just from the added energy demands of frequent feedings.
If after a few weeks you notice that:
- you aren’t losing any weight,
- your weight loss has stalled, or
- you are actually gaining weight,
then you should maximize the strategies I have for you below.
I always like to begin with…
Maximize Your Quality (Not Necessarily Quantity) Of Sleep
The very first thing I want you to try and improve is your sleep.
I know that you have a new baby, so improving sleep quantity isn’t realistic. Instead, you should focus on improving sleep quality.
Because sleep is an anabolic state. This is when your body is taking all the energy you consumed throughout the day and using it to restore and maintain your body.
When you don’t get good quality or quantity of sleep, your body remains in a sympathetic, “fight or flight” mode.
As a result, your body is constantly experiencing stress from multiple angles.
In these situations, your body releases a hormone called cortisol – which has been called the “stress hormone.”
High levels of stress (which can be induced with poor sleep quality), and high levels of cortisol can:
- Increase blood sugar levels,
- Increase blood pressure,
- Keep energy high (which can further disrupt sleep cycles), and
- Affect how your body uses proteins, carbs, and fats.
All in all, sleep deprivation and high cortisol can lead to water retention, fat retention, and metabolic disorders. None of these are conducive to weight loss.
So what can you do?
Since you can’t always control the number of hours you sleep, you can try to maximize your sleep quality.
Here are a few things you can try:
- Make your room pitch black (ideally, you shouldn’t see your outstretched hand in front of you).
- Keep your room cool, and sleep with light clothing (use a fan if needed).
- Try not to use your phone or laptop in bed, at all. Take your TV out of your bedroom as well.
- Try taking a Magnesium based supplement before bed.
I personally use Calm – (a Magnesium powder) which has helped me get a great night’s sleep.
Check it out here on Amazon and let me know what you think of it.
Maximize Your Nutrition
The next thing that I want you to do is improve your nutrition.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go on a diet (although you can if you’d like – just make sure to do it responsibly). Instead, I recommend that you increase the quality of the nutrients you are consuming.
To keep things short, I recommend that you focus on three main things:
- Protein intake
- Fiber-rich foods and
These three things are key to maximizing your hunger levels. You may notice that as you begin breastfeeding more frequently, your hunger levels might go up.
The good news is, you don’t have to increase your caloric intake to satisfy your appetite. You can include foods that are high in protein and foods that are high in fiber while still keeping your caloric intake at a deficit.
In addition, protein has been found to have the highest thermogenic effect on your body. This is just a fancy way of saying: your body needs to burn more calories digesting protein compared to carbohydrates and fats.
More on that later.
I go over several examples of these food groups in The Definitive Breastfeeding Meal Plan [Everything You Need To Know].
Don’t Skimp On Hydration
I think hydration deserves its own section.
This is by far the most underused strategy I can think of. Far too many new moms forget the importance of drinking water throughout the day,
Not only is it critical for breast milk supply, but water intake is necessary for overall health and weight loss.
Drinking pure water is one of the best ways to
- hydrate your body,
- improve circulation,
- decrease your appetite, and
- help you lose weight
The more water you drink, the less likely you will consume sugary, high-calorie beverages such as soda, juice, or milk/cream-filled coffee. These are full of empty calories with no nutritional value. This alone will help you lose weight fast.
Get yourself a high quality water bottle and bring it with you wherever you go.
I personally use a Yeti (you can get one here)- which keeps my water cold for hours and hours.
Don’t Sit Still
The number of calories you burn throughout the day is determined by four things:
- Your resting metabolic rate (aka the number of calories your body needs just to be alive),
- The thermic effect of food (aka the number of calories your body burns digesting the food you eat),
- Exercise activity thermogenesis (aka the number of calories you burn while doing exercise), and
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (aka the number of calories your body burns moving around).
This last component is referred to as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Although it may not sound like much – normal every day movement can actually contribute to significant caloric expenditure.
So even if you don’t exercise regularly, you can take advantage of non-exercise activity.
Walk more. Take the stairs more frequently. Do the dishes instead of throwing them in the dishwasher. Fidget around in your seat whenever you are sitting. There are so many ways to increase your movement.
Don’t sit still all day!
The next tip I have for you is to breast feed or pump your breast milk frequently (if you can).
In general, it is recommended that you pump every 3-4 hours, or at the schedule in which your baby demands feedings. Try to pump for about 15-20 minutes on each breast.
Feedings/Pumping will stimulate prolactin secretion (the hormone responsible for milk production), and thus burn energy.
Just make sure to stay adequately hydrated and consume the key nutrients mentioned above.
Do Short Workouts
No weight loss tips are complete without mentioning exercise.
Aside from burning calories and aiding in fat loss, exercise is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
As a new mom, finding time to exercise isn’t easy. The good news is, you don’t need to invest a lot of time to see results.
20-30 minutes is more than enough time to get a great workout session in.
Just make sure to:
- massage your breasts to start the flow of milk using this awesome device that applies both vibration and heat
- empty your breasts by pumping or directly feeding your baby
- wear a supportive nursing bra like this one
- put on these breast shells to collect any milk that happens to leak during my workout.
I have plenty of articles on how to exercise different parts of your body. You could also check out my 6-week leg and booty program for a quick workout designed to tone and strengthen your lower body.
Find One Activity To Manage Stress
My last tip deals with stress. This is obviously a very exciting time, but also a very stressful time.
If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone!
High stress and “burnout” is not uncommon for new mothers. That is why it is important that you engage in some kind of activity that you enjoy from time to time.
This could be reading, exercise, meditation, yoga, whatever.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. See if a friend or family member can help you take care of your baby for an hour or so 1-2x per week so that you can de-stress a little. Or take advantage while your baby is napping.
We already talked about the effects of high stress leading to high cortisol levels and weight dysregulation.
Regularly engaging in something you enjoy can help lessen the emotional burden just a bit.
If you notice you start to lose interest in activities that used to make you happy, develop feelings of guilt, or are unable to concentrate you should speak with your provider as these could be signs of postpartum depression.
So those are my top 7 tips to help you lose weight while breastfeeding.
You don’t have to do all 7 all at once.
Start by picking 1 or 2 of these things and try improving those as much as you can. Over time, you can gradually add more as you get comfortable.
How fast can you lose pregnancy weight?
On average, you should try to lose no more than 2 lbs per week after you deliver. If you have gained large amounts of weight in pregnancy (>50 lbs) then you might be able to lose weight a little faster.
Either way, it’s important to always monitor how you feel. Very low caloric intake is a common cause of extreme fatigue.
Will I Lose Weight Faster If I Stop Breastfeeding?
Some women will note increased weight loss after they stop breastfeeding. Once you stop feedings, your body interprets this as no longer needing to store extra energy for breast milk production.
With that said, the most important factor in weight loss is your caloric intake, the composition of the foods you eat (aka eat as much healthy food as possible), and the environment you create for your body.
You can lose weight while breastfeeding by optimizing the 7 factors mentioned above.
Any Foods That Promote Weight Loss While Breastfeeding?
There aren’t any specific foods that promote weight loss while breastfeeding, but there are trends you can follow to achieve your goal.
These include: protein intake, water intake, and fiber-rich carbohydrate intake.
At the same time, you should try to sleep as much as you can, and remain as physically active as possible.
Other Related Questions
Why am I gaining weight while breastfeeding and exercising?
The most likely cause of increased weight gain while breastfeeding and exercising is excessive caloric intake.
Take note of all the food you are consuming on a daily basis. Afterward, try to estimate the number of calories you are consuming. You can use an app such as myfitnesspal.com.
Check out this simple calculation below to help you see if you are eating too many calories.
A Simple “Losing Weight While Breastfeeding” Calculator
In general, you can multiply your body weight (in pounds) by 12-14 to see how many calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your weight.
If you are breastfeeding, you can add ~400 extra calories to that number.
If your goal is to lose weight, aim to decrease this recommended daily caloric intake by ~250 calories or so. If you fail to achieve weight loss with a 250 calorie deficit, then decrease your calorie intake by another 100-150 calories per day.
At the same time, make sure to optimize the other 7 factors listed above.
These things should help you achieve a 1-2 lb weight loss per week.
Does pumping burn as many calories as breastfeeding?
In theory, pumping and breastfeeding should be equivalent in terms of the number of calories you burn while doing them.
What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?
I go over all the foods you should avoid while breastfeeding in my breastfeeding meal plan.
A Quick Word On Weight loss supplements while breastfeeding
In general, I do not recommend that you take any weight loss supplements – regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding.
No supplement is regulated by the FDA, As a result, it is impossible to know what the true ingredients of any supplement may be- let alone a weight loss supplement.
Instead, I highly recommend you avoid them and use the strategies listed above instead.
For more information of losing weight while breastfeeding, check out The Postpartum Trainer’s Nutrition Guide on losing fat without affecting your milk supply.
So there you have my top 7 tips to help you lose weight while breastfeeding.
The last thing I want to say is this:
This isn’t an overnight process. Take your time and do it right. Your body and your baby will thank you later.
Now I want to hear from you.
How much weight did you lose breastfeeding?
What have you tried before to see success?
Comment below and let me know!
And don’t forget to check out other related posts on weight loss below!
Related Posts On Weight Loss Postpartum
- Are You Gaining Weight While Breastfeeding [Learn What To Do About It]
- The Definitive Breastfeeding Meal Plan [Everything You Need To Know]
- Getting Fit After Pregnancy: [A Step By Step Guide]
- Easy Postpartum Diet for New Moms
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Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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