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Breastfeeding and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know
Breast-feeding and weight loss. We sometimes hear women say: "I don't want to breastfeed because I want to regain my figure quickly after giving birth. » Or: « I stopped breastfeeding at 1 month because I wanted to go on a diet. Are these arguments based on reality? Is it harder to lose weight when breastfeeding? Is it impossible to diet while breastfeeding? Do you want to lose those extra pounds from pregnancy? Good news: breastfeeding your baby would be a factor in reducing the weight on the scale!  After childbirth, the extra pounds of pregnancy become the number one enemy of young mothers! The good news is that choosing to breastfeed can often contribute to slimming after the baby.

Breastfeeding and weight loss

On the first point, the studies are formal: in the medium term and without any special diet, women who breastfeed generally find their equilibrium weight more quickly than those who do not.
There is no mystery here: a good part of the pounds amassed during pregnancy are fats precisely provided by Nature as reserves for breastfeeding. If they are not used for this purpose, something will have to be done to make them go away.

Let us quote, for example, a study published in 1993 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and showing that one month after childbirth, women who breastfeeding lost more weight and pelvic width than those who were not breastfeeding.
Or this other, published in 1998 in theJournal of Human Lactation, showed weight loss in breastfeeding women between 6 and 12 months postpartum.
Or this other one, published in 2002, concluded that breastfeeding and regular physical exercise made it possible to control weight gain following pregnancy.

This is on the condition of not eating like four under the pretext of "eating for two"! Indeed, like the pregnant woman, the breastfeeding woman better uses her food intake (her metabolism is different), and the recommended intakes are probably overestimated. Suppose on the pretext that she is producing milk, the woman gorges herself without restrictions on chocolate, cakes, etc. In that case, she may have difficulty in losing weight (she may even gain weight), significantly if at the same time she has restricted physical activity.

And then, the metabolism still keeps many mysteries, and there are therefore as always exceptions: on the one hand, those who lose enormously (too much) weight throughout their breastfeeding, and those who, without making any excess, cannot get rid of their extra pounds, even after several months of breastfeeding. These (who have often gained much weight during pregnancy) may be tempted to make a diet, and they are soon discouraged from doing so as long as they are breastfeeding.

Can you diet while breastfeeding?

The supposed incompatibility of diets during the breastfeeding period is essentially based on two fears: fear that food restriction will lead to a drop in lactation and compromise the baby's weight gain; fear that she will release the toxins accumulated in the fats of the mother's body into the blood and therefore into the milk.

The most recent study on the subject should reassure on the first point.
The study aimed to assess the impact of weight loss, in overweight breastfeeding women (body mass index – BMI – between 25 and 30), on the growth of their exclusively breastfed children. At 4 weeks. They were divided by lot into a control group and a study group. In the latter, women had to follow a diet program (intakes 500 kcal lower than the recommended intake, but never lower than 1800 kcal/day) and physical exercises, all designed to make them lose between 500 g and 1 kg per week.

During the ten weeks of follow-up, the women in the study group lost an average of 4.8 kg, mainly at the expense of fat mass, and significantly reduced BMI. Among women in the control group, weight changes ranged from a loss of 4.6 kg to a gain of 4.6 kg.
On the other hand, there was no significant difference between the two groups about the children's weight gain.
The conclusion was that overweight women could, without danger for their child, follow a program designed to make them lose weight in a sensible way (up to 2 kg per month).

Breastfeeding and weight loss - Rules of caution

We can say that provided you follow a few rules of caution (not only valid for breastfeeding women), weight loss will cause neither lowering of milk secretion nor significant release of toxins. These rules are:
  • Wait two to three months after childbirth so that the body has recovered well after pregnancy and breastfeeding is well started,
  • Avoid high-performance diets (like Slim-Fast), which are very bad for everyone and even more so for breastfeeding women (completely unbalanced nutritionally). I prefer a correct diet, reducing fats and fast sugars, and a good ratio of fruits and vegetables. Do not hesitate to consult a dietitian, who will be able to develop a diet adapted to each case and take into account eating habits, allowing you to lose weight gently without being hungry. Namely: Weight Watchers have a special diet for breastfeeding women (the "New Mothers' Points System"). In any case, do not go below 1800 cal per day,
  • Do not try to lose more than 2 to 3 kg per month,
  • Doing physical exercise two or three times a week (a good walk, a gym or swimming session, a short jog, etc.) helps a lot and gets you in shape!

Weight loss and breastfeeding: how is it possible?

Weight loss and breastfeeding: how is it possible?

Quite naturally, during her pregnancy, a woman gains weight. Fat that comes to coat the forms of the future mother is intended to be used in the production of breast milk. Thus, the energy accumulated during these nine months allows the mother to offer a wealth of nutrients to her baby, especially during the first feedings. This is one of the significant advantages of breastfeeding: by giving the breast to her little one, the woman burns calories for each liter of milk swallowed by the baby. What'sWhat's more, breastfeeding requires a little energy, which contributes to gradual weight loss at the rate of about 1 kilo per month. Bye-bye, pregnancy curves!

Are all women affected by weight loss and breastfeeding?

"Not all women lose weight quickly when breastfeeding! A breastfeeding woman uses more calories than a non-breastfeeding woman. If the woman continues to eat the same amounts of food she had before pregnancy, she can lose weight quickly". Thus, if the mother eats "for two" thinking she is meeting her own needs and those of her baby, her weight can remain stable, or even... increase! Physical exercise (such as walking or stroller gym ) is recommended to lose weight sustainably and have a balanced diet. Thus, there are no particularly beneficial or harmful foods for the quality of the milk given by the mother; it is above all a question of not having any particular deficiencies so that the milk always remains good.

Can the baby also lose weight if the milk is not good?

What if the milk you gave your baby was not good? Will he lose weight too? Our specialist wishes to reassure mums: "Breast milk cannot fail to be good, and it is necessarily perfect for the baby, except in cases of severe malnutrition. On the other hand, if the baby is not effective at the breast, do is not suckling properly, or if mums are having difficulty breastfeeding, they may not be absorbing enough milk and maybe losing weight ." In this case, do not hesitate to raise the issue quickly with your pediatrician or your midwife.