Breastfeeding has many wonderful benefits – but is weight loss one of them? We surveyed almost 500 women to see what the majority of women have experienced – if you are wondering, “Does breastfeeding help you lose weight?” you are in the right place!
Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight?
I think every mom has heard it at least once:
“Breastfeeding makes you lose weight! It’s the best diet!”
The truth is – breastfeeding does burn calories. However, this doesn’t mean it will automatically make you lose weight.
Sure, there are women who lose weight like crazy while breastfeeding – but for every woman like that, there’s one who can’t lose a pound – or even gains weight – while breastfeeding.
Because I see so many moms asking about how to lose weight while breastfeeding – and more often than not, mothers just beside themselves because the weight isn’t coming off as promised – I decided to do a little poll in my breastfeeding Facebook group.
I was curious to see how many moms actually found it easier to lose weight while breastfeeding – and to see what the majority of women experienced.
Does Breastfeeding Make You Lose Weight?
Here are the questions I asked, along with the percentages of women who answered each one. We had about 470 women respond total:
- 54% – Lost a lot of weight initially after birth but weight wouldn’t budge after that (added the following into this)
- Lost a lot of weight initially but held on to about 10 pounds until baby weaned.
- 23% – The weight just fell off – no change in diet or exercise
- 12% – Lost a lot of weight initially after birth, but gained back quickly
- 4% – Couldn’t lose weight until baby weaned
- 3% – Lost weight with careful diet and exercise
- 2% – Gained weight after weaning baby
- 2% – Couldn’t gain weight while breastfeeding
The majority of the women polled lost weight after giving birth – which is to expect, since most women will drop between 10-15 pounds immediately following birth – but then struggled to lose weight after that. I am not sure that I would attribute this all to breastfeeding.
However, after losing that weight, they struggled to lose any weight. Although this is not a scientific study (obviously), I am led to believe that many women don’t actually lose weight while breastfeeding a general rule.
The next largest percentage at 23% was women who did, indeed, lost weight due to breastfeeding. However, I’m not sure I would say this is the rule.
For me, I always lose weight immediately following birth and for about two weeks afterward – and I end up weighing less than I did before I got pregnant! But after that first couple of weeks, the scale won’t go up or down. So for me, it seems that breastfeeding exclusively at least helped keep the weight at bay.
However, as soon as my kids start to eat solids more regularly and nurse less, I start to gain weight.
Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding?
It can be frustrating to not be able to lose weight while breastfeeding! One thing to keep in mind is that your body is still providing sustenance for your baby, just as it did while you were pregnant. It’s not just there to support you! And because of that, you may need extra calories and fat stores.
It’s important to remember that it took you nine months to gain all that weight from pregnancy – to be expected to bounce back immediately is really quite unrealistic. Some women do – and that’s great!
If you aren’t losing weight while breastfeeding, you can also take a good, hard look at your diet and exercise. Perhaps try and track your calories on a free website like MyFitnessPal (my favorite) just to get an idea of what you are eating. While breastfeeding, you need an additional 300-500 calories a day. You will want to calculate your
As I mention in my article about losing weight while breastfeeding, many diets are not safe while breastfeeding. If you limit your calories too much, you may find that your supply suffers. However, here are a few diets that are good for breastfeeding mothers:
- Weight Watchers – they have a plan specifically for breastfeeding mothers.
- IIFYM – This stands for If It Fits Your Macros. What I like about this one is that it is customized for your current stage in life – and if you are breastfeeding, it can take that into account. They have a free calculator on the IIFYM website, but I highly recommend purchasing the custom blueprint. I only started having success with this method after I started following that (it gives a lot more carbs than the generic calculator, oddly enough!)
- Intuitive Eating – I think this is the ideal way to eat if you can do it. It’s not a diet – it’s a way of living. I had success when I was really focused on doing it. It’s quite freeing. I recommend the Intuitive Eating book (you can get a free 60 day trial of Scribd, where you can read it for free during that time).
Gaining Weight While Breastfeeding
This is the other camp of women – they gain weight while breastfeeding! This can be frustrating after you’ve heard lots of stories of the amazing breastfeeding weight loss plan, only to see the scale going in the other direction.
For some women, this might be because they didn’t have enough fat stores, to begin with, and their body needed to gain weight in order to sustain breastfeeding.
For other women, it’s simply because they are eating more, and it might be more than they are burning. Some turn that extra 300-500 calories a day into 1000 calories a day. Some women are just ravenous. If you are finding that you are gaining weight, as I mentioned above, perhaps take a look at what you are eating. It is important to eat enough – and you do need more while breastfeeding – but taking a good look at what you are eating may help you to make better choices (such as not binge eating a whole bag of potato chips or chocolate covered pomegranates). Here are some great snack ideas – 13 Foods That Support Healthy Breast Milk Supply.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water – that can help with water weight, which I swear is worse while breastfeeding. I have a HUGE 64-ounce water bottle that I absolutely love. It helps me to make sure I’m getting enough water in throughout the day. The one I have is similar to the popular Hydroflask…it’s just a lot less expensive. I do recommend getting a straw lid (I have one made for the Hydroflask, but it fits just perfectly).
Exercise while breastfeeding
A few months ago, we wrote about exercise while breastfeeding. In general, it’s totally safe (and recommended) to exercise while breastfeeding. You just have to be careful to make sure you are replacing any water you lose through sweating by drinking enough – and make sure you are eating enough calories to still sustain breastfeeding.
I always recommend starting slow – walking is a great way to get your heart rate up and get healthier. It’s also a great way to ease back into exercise after delivering a baby. Even if you start with more heart-pounding exercises, just do it slowly and make sure your body can adjust.
I personally love and recommend the mobile app called Aaptiv (you can read my full Aaptiv review here). I’m not joking when I say I use it nearly every day – it has changed the way I exercise. I think it’s an amazing resource for new moms especially because they have exercises for every level – they can be done at home or at a gym or outside, and they even have stroller exercises. They are really fun and upbeat, and I’m not going to lie…I feel like the instructors have become friends as they cheer me on through workouts.
You can click here to get a free 30 day trial of Aaptiv. It’s worth the monthly cost though – I’ve tried TONS of fitness apps over the years, and this is the only one I truly have loved.
Well, I hope that this post was helpful to anyone who is wondering if breastfeeding really helps you to lose weight. It’s important to keep in mind that all moms are different – and that carrying a baby for nine months and then nourishing them for even longer is an incredible thing. Own those mom bods and recognize what a miracle it is (but don’t feel bad if you want to get back in shape and feel healthier!).
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