Post Pregnancy Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
As a new mom, you are overjoyed with your new baby, but also likely overwhelmed with your new life and feeling emotional about a lot of things; one thing being your post-baby body.
Often times women want to bounce back and lose all their baby weight as soon as they can and many can struggle with not losing weight for a variety of reasons. If you're breastfeeding, you may need even more calories than when you were pregnant! That's right, some need up to 800 more calories per day to help with the supply and demand of milk stimulation and production. However, don't let those extra calories fool you as you also have to account for being much less active and sleep deprived, which may actually bring your calorie needs back down, all making losing weight initially a struggle.
If this is you or someone close to you, here are 5 simple steps to help lose weight healthfully.
1. Set a schedule.
- You're likely already on a breastfeeding schedule, and I know it is already hard to drink your coffee before it gets cold, but setting alarms on your phone during waking hours can help to ensure you don't miss key meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Try to eat breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking for the day and then eat a small meal or snack about every 3 hours for a total of 3 meals and 3 snacks during the day.
- You may also have to make a meal plan for yourself, and display it on a cute chalkboard in your kitchen to remind you to go lighter on your snacks, rather than indulge in treats that may be left around the house.
- Keep snacks centered around simple items likes fruits and a mixture of protein sources nuts, nut butters, low fat cheese or plain Greek yogurt.
2. Have a well stocked fridge.
- If you are preparing food for yourself, try to prepare items in a big batch once during the week and use throughout the week for easy, grab-and-go healthy snacks. Think about foods that are protein + fiber rich that also save well throughout the week.
Examples can include:
chicken salad + endive leaves
smoked salmon + light cream cheese pinwheels
tuna salad + celery sticks
egg salad + Triscuit thin crisps
homemade trail mix
3. Accept help or gifts from friends and family.
- But, ask if you can give a list of mommy-friendly snacks and meals that they could bring or make for you. It's not unreasonable to ask those that want to help to keep your interests at heart; point them to your Pinterest page that you created before the baby or tell them about your favorite healthy blog where they can find approved recipes.
- Casseroles tend to be a popular meal to make for new moms, but think outside the box and lighten ingredients up by swapping full fat cheeses for reduced fat ones, enriched tortillas for whole grain ones, veggie swaps for calorie-dense carbohydrates. Considering asking friends to make you:
crust less quiches
Shepard's Cauliflower Pie
Skinny Chicken Enchiladas
4. Be wary of lactation-stimulating foods
While the best milk supply stimulation is plenty of fluids for mommy and frequent feedings for baby, you'll likely see lots of lactation-supporting recipes that claim to help with milk production. Don't be fooled that these lactation cookies, for example, are necessary or healthy for you. While they may contain flaxseed or brewer's yeast (promoted as helping with milk supply) it also can accompany white, enriched flours and loads of sugar. All which translates into energy crashes and empty calories for mommy.
Additionally, there isn't any scientific evidence to support that flaxseed or brewer's yeast actually help with breastmilk supply, and while it won't likely hurt you to take in food-form, supplements should still be avoided unless you check with your doctor first.
5. Give yourself a little extra time.
You're sleep deprived, which only adds to the mix of your ever-changing hormones and makes it hard to control cravings, food choices and energy level. Doing the best you can by setting your schedule and having the healthiest of options around is a great starting point.
Depending on if you're still at home or have returned to work, you may not be as physically active as you normally are. If you're only 6 weeks or less, you likely haven't even been released by your doctor to exercise yet. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and stress regarding this entirely new routine and you may not be prioritizing exercise into your day. It's something you should work in not just for weight loss but for mental health as well, and as you do, you'll find this will help to get you into shape more quickly and easily. Even just walking with the baby will help.
You will also come to accept that your body will likely never be the same prepregnancy. That's not to say you can't get back into shape, sometimes better shape than before, but there will still be differences that perhaps only you will notice.
Rebecca Miller, MPH, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian with Ochsner's Fitness Center and Eat Fit NOLA. She also writes a blog called Twisted Nutrition (you can follow her @TwistedNutrition) and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org | 504.842.9551.