There are a lot of misconceptions out there about weight loss and breastfeeding. Some people believe that the weight just drops off if you’re breastfeeding. Others think it’s hard to get your body back while you’re breastfeeding.
Neither is exactly right. Breastfeeding does burn extra calories — approximately 850 calories a day, to be exact. (Wow!) But losing weight while breastfeeding is rarely a given because breastfeeding makes moms hungrier. And hungry, sleep-deprived new moms tend to satisfy their cravings with simple carbohydrates — it's not exactly easy to lose weight when you’re eating those.
Make savvy substitutions
Think before you snack. Instead of reaching for the Doritos, pop some popcorn. Instead of having packaged cereal, make a batch of steel-cut oatmeal. Oatmeal is a great breakfast for a breastfeeding mom who’s trying to lose weight. It keeps you full for a long period of time and keeps insulin levels stable. Starchy veggies, such as baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, can also satisfy your craving for carbs. Brown and wild rice are good side dish and snack options, too.
Set yourself up for success
A little bit of prep work one day can help you keep your eating on track for the next few days. Cut up some veggies and fruit to keep in the fridge, cook and freeze healthy meals for later quick defrosting, and don’t feel bad about grabbing steam-in-bag veggies or other healthy low-prep snacks (there are lots of options at Trader Joe’s!). The idea is to keep healthy snacks and meals in the cabinet and fridge, and to keep out the cookies and chips.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
If a mom waits too long between meals, there’s a hormonal effect that affects milk supply. Her body will start pulling energy from her reserves, which decreases insulin production and affects thyroid hormone levels. That lowers prolactin, which is the hormone that controls how much milk we make. When you’re feeling starving, you’re more likely to eat something you know you shouldn’t. Instead, spread your calories out over six mini-meals throughout the day. Cut calories —but not too much.
It’s perfectly safe to diet while breastfeeding, as long as your total caloric intake doesn’t dip below 1,500-1,800 calories per day and you keep eating a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Work in exercise
Wait at least six to eight weeks before starting or restarting a serious exercise regimen. If you’re planning a particularly strenuous workout, eat a healthy carb about a half-hour before you exercise. Eating a starchy vegetable, like half of a baked potato, before running can really help prevent a decrease in your milk supply.
The following foods will help you feel good so you have the energy to get through your day with flying colors. Well, maybe not quite flying colors due to the lack of sleep that comes with having an infant, but you will certainly feel better than you would with a low calorie and nutrient-deprived diet.
Aim to eat foods that contain high amounts of Omega 3’s. These include walnuts, eggs that have been fortified with Omega 3’s, low sugar breakfast cereals that have been fortified with Omega 3’s, salmon, basil and spinach.
Eat lots of iron-rich foods. Focus on foods like lean cuts of beef, spinach, lentils, black beans and leafy green vegetables.
Eat a diet that rich in complex carbohydrates. Focus on whole grain or whole wheat products and avoid empty calories from “white” products. Eat whole grain English muffins, bran muffins, brown rice, wheat pasta, sweet potatoes and lots of vegetables.
Eat a diet that is rich in calcium and protein. Snack on foods like yogurt, string cheese, smoothies made with milk or almond milk and a banana.
Aim to eat the color of the rainbow each day when you are choosing fruits and vegetables.
Keep at it
You have to be consistent when it comes to weight loss after birth. Everyone loses weight at a different rate, so don’t be discouraged if your weight loss happens more slowly than it does for all those celeb mamas. With a healthy diet plan, breastfeeding moms typically lose about a pound a week.
I have had clients lose baby weight within a month and some it takes almost the entire 9 months it took them to birth the baby. Everyone is genetically different and that is OKAY!!
At the end of the day -- as long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, you will lose weight!!