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Overview of BreastfeedingMyths About Breastfeeding and Weight LossHow Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?11 Ways to Lose Weight While BreastfeedingStill Having Trouble Losing Weight?
Most women are health conscious these days. While they may enjoy the process of having a baby, they do want to get back to their old bodies soon after! However, this can become a challenge for breastfeeding moms.
One cannot start on any fitness journey without also modulating their diet. As a breastfeeding mom, however, this might give you the scares... because everything you eat (or don’t eat) is going to affect your baby too! So how can you get realistic about shedding that baby weight, and yet not deprive your baby of proper nourishment and nutrition? Is it really possible (and advisable) to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Overview of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is highly encouraged by most doctors, gynaecologists and lactation experts. Breast milk is the elixir for a baby’s timely and sustained growth and development in all spheres – physical, emotional, as well as cognitive. The other most significant argument in favour of breastfeeding is that it provides necessary immunity to your little human! Finally, it is one of the best ways for mother and baby to bond very intimately and get to know each other!
However, breastfeeding does come with its own set of challenges, and it is indeed sad when a baby is deprived of mother’s milk. New mothers may struggle with any of the following breastfeeding challenges
- Low milk supply
- Latching problems
- Unsuitable nipple morphology (inverted nipples, flat nipples, etc.)
- Baby blues and/or Postpartum depression
With all these challenges, factor in trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, and the journey can get tougher!
Link Between Weight Loss and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and weight loss have a tricky connection, and it is important to understand it properly before you decide to (or decide not to) try and lose weight during this period.
Myths About Breastfeeding and Weight Loss
1. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight.
Truth: Breastfeeding burns calories.
Producing breast milk is an energy expensive procedure: it takes a lot of energy and food for your body to produce breast milk. However, this is the only connection between breastfeeding and ‘weight loss’ as such. So while breastfeeding as a biological process consumes
a lot of calories, it does not necessarily mean you are going to drop weight like hot cakes! Nope.
2. Smaller breasts = less milk, so eat more!
Truth: The size of your breast does not determine the amount of milk you produce.
Think of breasts as a container: it is not the container that produces the milk, but your body! So please do not think that just because you have smaller breasts, you need to eat more in order to produce enough breast milk! This kind of thinking can, in fact, lead to weight gain, and go on the opposite track to your intended direction!
3. Exercising will change the taste of your breast milk, and make breastfeeding difficult.
Truth: Not enough for your baby to notice!
The adult taste palate is far more evolved than a baby’s taste palette. So while it is true that your body chemistry changes when you exercise (owing to the lactic acid that the body produces during a workout), it does not affect the taste of your breast milk. However, sweat sure can affect it! So make sure you take a shower and change into fresh clothes before feeding your baby.
So, here’s what you need to remember:
- Breastfeeding does burn calories. So please breastfeed your baby as much as you can (also because of the benefits mentioned earlier).
- If you are eating extra food in order to augment your breast milk supply, make sure you consult a dietician and a lactation expert about exactly the kinds and amount of food you need to consume.
- By all means, exercise while breastfeeding! It will not affect the quality of your breast milk.
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
So, how many calories does breastfeeding actually burn? And how does this affect your weight loss plans?
Depending on your frequency of breastfeeding, and the amount of breast milk your child consumes, breastfeeding burns between 300 and 500 calories per day
Pretty phenomenal, huh? But what does this mean for your weight loss plans?
Well, you are going to feel hungrier, if you just simply go back to your regular diet. If your body is spending more energy than it is gaining, obviously you are going to feel hungry! Breastfeeding moms may hence find themselves reaching for a snack oftener than they expected. However, go wrong at this step, and your weight loss plans will pretty much go downhill.
It is important to snack on the right foods when you feel untimely and increased hunger owing to breastfeeding. Here are some healthy options to consider that will satiate you, nourish you (and your baby through the breast milk), and keep the scales still tipping in your favour!
- Glass of milk
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
- Energy bars
- Lactation Tea and snack
- Fresh veggies with hummus or guacamole
- Dark chocolate
11 Ways to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
Before we start with the tips, please remember that any form of dieting is strongly advised against while you are breastfeeding. You do not need to give up carbs and fats in order to lose weight, more importantly, you shouldn’t if you are breastfeeding. Instead, here are 4 other things you need to manage while trying to lose weight while breastfeeding.
With respect to eating, here’s what you need to remember:
- Eat regularly 3 full meals and 3 snacks at regular intervals. Roughly, these meals can be divided as follows:
The key here is to not let your body go into starvation mode. This can go against your weight loss plans, so do not go hungry to lose weight!
- Early morning snack
- Mid-meal snack
- Evening snack
- Watch what you snack on. The healthy snacking options previously mentioned should be your go-to snacks whenever you feel hungry.
- Make lifestyle changes, rather than ‘diet’ changes. Focus on making healthier food choices (not only to lose weight, but to better nourish your body, and also your baby), and give up processed, ready-to-eat, high-trans-fat, junk and fast food.
Hydration is important to keep your body from retaining water (and adding to those kilos!). So consider the following tips.
- Do not confuse thirst for hunger. When you feel your stomach grumbling, first drink a glass of water, and weight for 15 minutes. If you still feel hungry, it is true hunger!
- Drink enough water to not only maintain optimum breast milk supply but also prevent water retention, which leads to bloating (and unnecessary extra kilos on the scale). Water will also flush out the toxins in the body.
- Consider drinking lactation teas to boost breast milk supply. Not only will they keep you hydrated, they will also allow you to boost your breast milk supply without necessarily eating extra food.
Coming to the most debated angle of breastfeeding and weight loss – exercise! Here are some important tips to bear in mind.
- Cardio and strength training are both important – but that does not mean you have to lift weights. Consider floor exercises, body-weight exercises, resistance training, and postnatal yoga.
- Wear the correct clothes to prevent your body from sagging. This is especially true of bras. Pick a good sports bra that offers good support and comfort while exercising.
- Stomach and core-strength exercises are important. Not only will they help shed the weight around your trunk, they will also help your abdominal and pelvic muscles to regain their strength and form.
If you do not give your body time to recover, it will never recover! So here’s what you need to do.
- Get 8 hours of sleep.
- Try and squeeze in an afternoon nap if you cannot get a good quality night’s sleep.
Still Having Trouble Losing Weight?
Most moms will see some movement on the scale if the follow the above advice. If not on the scale, the difference will be noticeable at least in terms of inches. Weight loss can be perceived as early as a couple of weeks after starting a diet and exercise regime, or up to a month later. However, in spite of all your efforts, if you find yourself still struggling to lose weight while breastfeeding, here are a few things to look into:
- Are you eating enough? Eating less than your daily requirement can also make you gain weight.
- Are you eating too much? While it is advisable to eat a little extra, eating more than your body can/is burning can lead to weight gain.
- Is your baby close to weaning? If yes, she could be breastfeeding less – which means you need to eat less too.
- Are you stressed? Stress can significantly affect weight loss.
- Could there be an underlying medical condition? Go visit your doctor and get yourself evaluated.
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It is not rocket-science – just a matter of being smart. And these tips are bound to make losing weight while breastfeeding a lot easier and manageable for you!