If you’re like many moms, once you’ve given birth, your thoughts quickly turn to losing extra baby weight. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, it seems that every new mom should be able to do that in a matter of weeks. The truth is that notion is far from realistic and usually not very healthy, so here’s what you need to know if you are nursing and wondering if a diet is the right thing for you.
The average breastfeeding mom needs to consume approximately an extra 500 calories a day to support lactation. Making milk takes a lot of work, so you need the calories to support it! To put that number in perspective, that’s about an extra peanut butter sandwich and 8-ounce glass of milk a day. If a woman eats less than this over a sustained period of time, she will lose weight.
In fact, most breastfeeding women will lose about 1.7 pounds per month for the first six months postpartum without even trying. This is a normal weight loss and one that your body prepared for. Remember that weight you gained in pregnancy? About 4-7 pounds of it was fat that was stored specifically to help you breastfeed.
While these numbers are interesting, the real question usually is, “But how much more can I lose so I can fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans—without causing problems with breastfeeding?” The bottom line is that breastfeeding moms in general should avoid crash diets or ones that promise huge amounts of weight loss in a short period of time. These programs are usually extremely restrictive in the number of calories eaten every day. They also tend to leave out lots of food groups that contain important nutrients that lactating women need.
In general, a weight-loss program should combine exercise with a healthy and varied diet. If a nursing mom follows this type of regimen and loses at most 1-1.5 pounds per week, her milk supply should be just fine. And remember, exercising during breastfeeding is safe as long as a few precautions are followed. Most weight loss programs that have specific guidelines for postpartum and nursing mothers are reputable, such as Weight Watchers, and are safe to follow.
If you are worried about your weight and want to start a diet while breastfeeding, you may want to consider the following plan:
- Make sure your goals are realistic and not unhealthy.
- Talk with your doctor before starting any diet to make sure you are on the right track.
- Joining a reputable weight-loss program that has experience with nursing moms can help you lose weight in a safe way.
- Consider meeting with a nutritionist to make sure you are getting the kinds of fats, proteins, and nutrients you need.
- Don’t just focus on restricting food—you need to exercise too!
- Cut back or stop if your weight loss is too drastic, and see a lactation consultant if your milk supply suddenly seems to change.
Reviewed by Sara Connolly, March 2020
- The average breastfeeding mom needs to consume approximately an extra 500 calories a day to support lactation.
- Most breastfeeding women will lose about 1.7 pounds per month for the first six months postpartum without even trying.
- Avoid crash or fad diets that have you drastically restrict calories or the kinds of foods you eat.
- Smart dieting with gradual weight loss should not affect your milk supply.