How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight?
The jury is out as to how much breastfeeding helps you lose weight. Some women claim that they have trouble keeping enough weight on whilst breastfeeding. Others are not so lucky and claim that they actually struggled to lose all their baby weight until they stopped breastfeeding. Some suggest that breastfeeding will help you lose most of your baby weight but many women find the last 10lb doesn't go until they stop. However, if you have a lot of baby weight to lose you may find that keeping hold of 10lb is a price worth paying if breastfeeding helps you shift the rest.
In this article I will discuss the theory behind how breastfeeding helps you lose weight and suggest some tips for women who are finding it difficult to lose weight whilst breastfeeding.
How Does Breastfeeding Help You Lose Weight?
When you breastfeed your body burns calories in order to produce the milk. On average a women will burn 750 calories a day through breastfeeding. This is a massive amount and you would have to do a lot of exercise to match this.
Now when you are pregnant your body keeps hold of fat and lays down what are referred to as maternal fat stores. Maternal fat stores are used to produce the milk required to feed your baby. However in order for your body to keep producing milk you need to consume more calories than you normally would. On average you should consume 500 calories above your normal daily requirements. This means that everyday you will burn 250 calories from breastfeeding which will be taken from your maternal fat stores meaning you will lose weight through breastfeeding.
If you are going to follow a calorie counting diet whilst breastfeeding you can work out how many calories you need to consume by using an online calorie needs calculator and adding 500 calories to the result.
If you do not have the time to count calories (let's face it how many new mums have time to do that) you can use the principle of eating only and always when you are hungry- listening to your body and responding to its needs should ensure you are eating the right amount and will also keep you metabolism chugging along nicely.
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Do I have to Increase My Calories?
Now when you are trying to lose weight it is tempting to cut the amount you eat. It certainly seems counter intuitive to be increasing your calorie consumption by 500! Guidelines suggest that women should eat no less than 1800 calories a day when breastfeeding- eating any less than this could jeopardize your ability to produce milk and feed your baby so whatever you do make sure you are eating at least 1800 calories a day.
Let's look at how you lose weight.
You do not want to be losing more than 2lb a week- slow weightloss is safer and more sustainable than rapid weightloss.
To lose 2lb a week you need to create a calorie deficit of 7000 calories a week.
If you add an extra 500 calories you will still generate a deficit of 250 calories a day through breastfeeding alone - that is 1750 a week
That would leave 5250 calories to burn through exercise
That is 750 calories a day - this doesn't all have to be through targeted exercise though. Don't forget that you do exercise all the time- cleaning, picking up children, shopping, walking, going up and downstairs, cooking, gardening etc. You will need to do some targeted exercise as well though if you want to have significant weight loss.
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Why Aren't I Losing Weight?
So what happens if you are breastfeeding but you still find you are nor losing weight? Here are a few things that could be happening:
1) You are not eating enough calories
As discussed above you are supposed to add 500 calories to your daily intake when breastfeeding. If you are not doing this you may find that your body goes into starvation mode and instead of burning your maternal fat stores clings onto them instead. If you cannot be bothered to count calories you can ensure you are getting the right amount by either adding two healthy snacks a day to your diet or simply eat when you are hungry. If you eat when you are hungry (and only when you are hungry) you will become totally in tune with your body and increase the efficiency of your metabolism.
2) You are not drinking enough
When you are breastfeeding you need to keep hydrated at all times- you should be drinking at least 3 liters of fluid a day- preferably water. Another general rule of thumb is to consume 8oz of water for every feed- keep a bottle with you and sip it throughout the day. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and if you are not drinking enough it may be making you feel hungry.
3) You are not eating the right foods
Some women complain that they are constantly hungry when breastfeeding. For sure breastfeeding does increase your appetite but then you are allowed an extra 500 calories a day and should still lose weight. The main problem here may be that you are eating foods which are high on the glycemic index which in turn will make you feel more hungry not satisfied. Try to eat low GI foods at regular intervals throughout the day- make sure your extra 500 calories comes from healthy satisfying foods rather than from junk.