Struggling to with how to lose weight while breastfeeding? You are not alone! Here are 11 of the best ways to lose weight while breastfeeding without hurting your supply.
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
I think most people have a goal to get back to pre-pregnancy weight when they have a baby. I know I sure did.
However, there are plenty of things that can prevent that from happening as quickly as one might like – sleepless nights, stress, and really, snuggling your baby is often more appealing than hitting the gym.
I think one of the larger hurdles to losing weight after having a baby is if you are breastfeeding.
People often talk about how breastfeeding is the best way to lose weight after baby – and in some ways, it can be! You burn a lot of extra calories, and if it’s balanced right, that can result in weight loss. However, I think there is a lot more that plays into it. For every woman who loses 30 pounds while breastfeeding, there’s another woman who can’t get rid of that last 5 or 10 pounds until her baby is weaned. Then there’s another woman who actually gained weight while breastfeeding and couldn’t lose it until afterward.
No matter what your story is, I know it can be frustrating when you feel you can’t lose the baby weight. I’ve gathered together tips that I’ve found helpful – and that I know others have found helpful as well – when it comes to losing baby weight.
Breastfeeding and Weight Loss
Breastfeeding does burn a lot of calories. By nursing on demand, you will burn the maximum amount of calories. It’s important to do this especially as you start to exercise more so your body still knows that even though some of your fat stores might be disappearing, your body still needs to produce milk!
It is important to realize that extreme dieting and exercise can cause a decrease in your supply – so be careful. You can check out this post about low milk supply if you are already experiencing that.
While breastfeeding, you need to determine your BMR – which is basically how many calories you burn by existing and doing your typical schedule. On top of that, I would add 300-500 calories.
I love using MyFitnessPal to track my calories and exercise. In the food diary section, you can even add breastfeeding, and it will add that to the amount of calories you can eat that day!
As you start exercising more, make sure you eat more calories so you don’t drop below the 1500-1800 total mark. You want to make sure you are eating good calories and fat as well. Try to avoid anything super sugary or greasy. I know lots of people who eat too many calories (and most of them are sugar) that really struggle to lose weight while breastfeeding. It’s normal to get extra hungry while breastfeeding – just make sure you are eating healthy!
Drinking water is recommended to help with weight loss – regardless of your breastfeeding status! It helps flush out toxins, excess water weight (which seems counter-productive, I know), and it helps keep you fuller. Staying hydrated is essential for successful breastfeeding, and it’s essential for healthy weight loss!
I highly recommend an infused water bottle in case you aren’t a big fan of drinking tons of water a day. I love using one of these. It’s especially good for those of you who may like to drink soda. We also have a water filtration system that we LOVE using (especially because our tap water is nasty. I like to describe it as toxic glue.)
I’ve been told that if you drink a large glass of water before you eat, it will help you to eat a smaller portion. I definitely think this helps!
I know plenty of people who lose weight without exercise. It’s really a “game” of calories in/calories out. If you are finding it difficult to lose weight on diet alone, though, exercise can really help. It’s good to be active, anyway!
As mentioned above, just make sure you don’t burn too many calories. Things like Insanity and CrossFit are really big right now, but if you aren’t careful, they can really hurt your breastmilk supply.
I love walking around the indoor track at our gym while pushing Oliver in a stroller. I do this for about 30 minutes a day while listening to Pandora, and it’s become something I really look forward to. Just find some form of moderate exercise that you enjoy!
Lately I’ve found some apps I really love using. They make exercising SO much easier!
My favorite is Aaptiv. I use this app nearly every day – whether you like working out on a treadmill or elliptical, doing exercises without equipment, or running outside, you will love it. They actually have specific programs for busy parents as well as a stroller exercise program!
It makes working out a lot more fun because you have a trainer talking to you the whole time, which is set to up beat music. It has beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts in varying lengths of time. You can get a free 30 day trial here.
It is great for busy moms of babies, because the work outs can be as short as 10 minutes. You can modify the intensity, so if you find your breast milk supply is being affected, you can just tone it down.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Weight Watchers. They have a plan that is specifically for breastfeeding mothers so you don’t have to worry about compromising your breast milk supply.
What I love about Weight Watchers is that it seems to train your body to know when you are full. I love that you don’t really know how many calories you are eating – you just have to stay within the point range set up at the beginning. I have found that I often end up with points left over at the end of the day. It’s easy to follow, and you can eat anything. Plus, fruits and vegetables are ZERO points.
They often have great deals going on, where you can often try the plan for free. You can check it out here.
Find New Ways to Exercise
It can be hard to make it to the gym when you have a baby! I mean, even if they have a child care, that’s kind of iffy since there are always sick kids there. Jack comes home with a new sickness every time he goes.
So find new ways to exercise with your baby. Put your baby in a baby carrier and walk around the house – it’s like carrying around a 8-20 pound weight! With your free hands, you could use some hand weights for awhile.
You can do exercise videos at home (I love Blogilates). Something as simple as going on a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood while pushing your baby in their stroller can do a lot of good (plus fresh air is always helpful!)
Avoid Quick Fixes
I’m in several different breastfeeding support groups on Facebook, and it seems like a day doesn’t go by where someone asks “Is such and such diet/program safe while breastfeeding.”
Every time I see one of these, there’s always someone that chimes in and says it totally is – often someone selling the resources for the program. I’m always curious about them, so I jump on Google, and I see that although there were a few people who had no ill effects from the diet, many, many others say that their breast milk supply dropped significantly.
I’ll be real with you – if you want to breastfeed, make it your priority. If you start doing something that is going to hurt your breast milk supply, you have to decide what’s more important to you – losing the weight FAST and NOW or having a little more patience to make sure your supply isn’t affected. There’s no wrong choice – you just have to decide what’s important.
With that said, I never think these “quick fix” diets are worth it, breastfeeding or not. They limit your caloric intake significantly, and more times than not, people who do them end up gaining the weight back. Yo-yo dieting is NOT healthy.
Watch Your Measurements
It’s easy to fixate on the number on the scale – I certainly do! While breastfeeding, you may be the unlucky one who can’t lose weight…but you CAN tone up, and those measurements aren’t as apparent by a number.
Learn how to take measurements – all you need is a flexible measuring tape. I have the Qardio Base Scale, which I love, because it tracks progress, and it measures your muscle and body fat percentages. It also has a pregnancy mode, which is pretty cool.
Plan your meals ahead of time – if you need some different ideas on how to meal plan, be sure to check out this post. I think that planning what and how you are going to eat can definitely help you eat less and make sure you are eating foods that are compatible and helpful with breastfeeding.
I really like of the Six Sister’s Meal plan service – it’s only $8 a month, and each week, you get delicious recipes and a shopping list. Most of the recipes are very easy and pretty healthy. They have a specific healthy meal plan, too.
Avoid Stress & Get Enough Sleep
I think one of the biggest reasons I struggle with losing weight is this one. I get stressed out extremely easily, and it’s a good day when I’m in bed before midnight. I know that if I were to adjust these two factors even just a little bit, I would be more successful. Stress is linked to weight gain, as is not getting enough sleep. Sleep is when your body works to repair itself!
I have found merit in meditating or just deep breathing for 10 minutes a day. I recently attended a church activity where one of the teachers mentioned that deep breathing can help boost your metabolism!
I know it can be hard to get enough sleep when you have a breastfeeding baby. It can also be stressful if you are dealing with other children, a baby who isn’t gaining weight, or low milk supply! But take all the opportunities you can to de-stress.
And I know it’s easier said than done but get as much sleep as you can. If you have to, invest in a better mattress or even pillow to help you get better sleep when you are sleeping!
This book has changed my life and perspective on healthy eating and losing weight. When I started following it’s principals, I started losing weight and feeling better.
It basically puts the ax in all dieting and helps you to learn how to eat intuitively (without limiting any foods). I sometimes joke that I now eat like my two-year-old! I think it’s perfect for breastfeeding mothers because you learn how to eat what your body needs you to eat.
Eat Whole Foods
Focus on eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed food if you can. If you do this, I believe you will have an easier time losing weight (even without exercise!) It will also ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet as well!
Trim Healthy Mamas
This is another good meal plan, though I found it a little too intense for my liking. The Trim Healthy Mamas books are really awesome though. I started reading the book when I got it and was instantly captivated, especially because their meal plans and lifestyle can easily be adapted for a breastfeeding or pregnant mom.
The person who suggested this book said she couldn’t lose a pound while breastfeeding her other children, but by following the principles and meal plans from Trim Healthy Mamas, she actually was able to lose weight and keep her supply up. I recommend purchasing introduction book and their recipe book (and the recipes look SO good and easy) if you are interested in this method.
Slow and Steady
Don’t try and lose a ton of weight at once. It’s not healthy, and if you do a crash diet, you’ll be at much higher risk of losing your breastmilk supply. Aim to lose no more than 1.5 pounds a week.
My favorite thing to say is this – it took you nine months to grow and birth your baby. You don’t have to lose it overnight. Be easy on yourself and let your body recover from childbirth!
Meet with a Nutritionist/Dietitian
There’s a lot of information online about losing weight while breastfeeding – some good, some bad. I think one of the best things you can do is to meet with someone who specializes in dieting and nutrition. They can go over your individual goals and situation and build a plan specifically for YOU.
Even if you can’t meet with one in person, you can now make a plan with a nutritionist online! I recommend checking out Health Tap’s teledoc services – they have dietians/nutritionists on staff 🙂
It’s okay to have a few guilty pleasures every now and then. Do what’s best for you and your baby! The fact of the matter is this – if your goal is to breastfeed your baby, make that your priority. I know it can be frustrating not to fit in your clothes like you used to, but you can get there eventually (and in the mean time, why not treat yourself to StitchFix for some new clothes to fit in now?!). You won’t be breastfeeding forever!