Let me guess, you’ve been told breastfeeding makes the weight just “melt off” after pregnancy but for you, the weight just doesn’t seem to want to budge?
If you are trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, you may find it more challenging than expected.
But don’t get discouraged yet! You are in the right spot.
After my first baby was born, I had this expectation that the extra weight I gained during pregnancy would just “melt off” from breastfeeding.
I was definitely misinformed and you may have been as well.
This post will help you find some clarity and direction in reaching your postpartum weight loss goals while breastfeeding your little one.
“Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?”
Unfortunately, losing weight while breastfeeding can be a little slower than we anticipated.
Here are four reasons why you can’t lose weight while breastfeeding.
1. Increased appetite
Your body burns around 425-700 EXTRA calories per day while brestfeeding. (source) This can leave you feeling much more hungry than normal.
The caloric deficit needed for weight loss can be difficult to maintain because of your increase in appetite and the extra calories needed to produce breastmilk.
2. Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep is a very significant factor in weight loss, regardless of breastfeeding or not.
Not getting enough sleep can cause spikes in our appetite due to hormonal fluctuations.
Hungry, sleep deprived moms tend to reach for snacks that are quick and easily accessible.
These snacks tend to be higher in sugar and calories which is not optimal for weight loss.
3. Decreased activity level
This is a given, right?
We would rather sleep or cuddle your squishy, delicious smelling newborn rather than exercise or get outside for a walk to burn some calories, right?
Reduced activity levels with an increased appetite and calories can be a big hurdle to reaching your weight loss goals.
But still not impossible!
Stress is incredibly hard on the body and if your body is trying to produce milk for your little one, it can actually affect your supply.
If you are stressing about things like the challenges of motherhood, concerns about returning to work, trying to lose baby weight or even trying to maintain your milk supply, chances are all this stress is making it harder for your body to produce milk.
How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Without Losing Your Supply
While breastfeeding does burn approximately 425-700 EXTRA calories per day (source), this alone may not be enough to give you the rapid weight loss you were hoping for.
As a matter of fact, some women may have a hard time losing weight until they finish nursing. You can thank your female hormones for this. They can make fat loss a little tricky.
The struggle to create and maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle as a brand new mom or mama of multiples is tough.
With a little creativity, dedication, consistency and support, I promise you can reach your goals!
Here is exactly what helped me lose weight after all three of my pregnancies.
1. Eat Quality Food Sources
Breastfeeding is an excellent time to focus on developing healthier eating habits.
While studies show that our bodies are very forgiving and your diet has a very small influence on the composition of your breastmilk, a poor diet is more likely to affect you.
Not making savvy food choices will affect your energy levels, sleep, mood and ability to lose weight while breastfeeding.
If you struggle with finding healthy recipes while breastfeeding, this breastfeeding cookbook will help you get the nutrients you need.
Sticking to healthy options instead of reaching for quick, sugary or processed foods will help keep your appetite at bay and give you more energy to tackle your day.
Eating foods that are nutrient dense such as healthy proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables will help keep your body fuller, longer.
A handful of nuts and string cheese will keep you much fuller than a bag of chips or a candy bar!
2. Track Your Calories
According to Kelly Mom, most moms are able to maintain their milk supply on 1800-2200 calories a day.
Because you may feel hungrier while breastfeeding, tracking calories can help you stay on track and prevent over eating.
I love apps like “Lose It” on my phone because I can enter my food while I’m nursing my little one.
I believe that calorie counting doesn’t have to be a lifelong endeavor.
However, at the end of the day, weight loss boils down to calories in vs calories out and tracking your calories to monitor portion control will help reach your postpartum weight loss goals faster.
As long as you remain in slight caloric deficit, you will lose or maintain your weight.
I suggest to start eating around 1800-2200 calories and tracking as precisely as possible.
Then play around with adding or reducing a few hundred calories from there until you find a balance that works for you.
If you are exercising, be sure to up your calorie intake on days you workout.
I would suggest only about 300-400 calories which is equivalent to a protein shake.
3. Move More But Not With Exercise
During the newborn and breastfeeding phase, you are much more sedentary while you nurse and cuddle your newborn.
This means that you aren’t burning as many calories throughout your day.
Yes, breastfeeding burns calories but being more sedentary may offset those extra calories burned.
Allow me to introduce you to a fancy weight loss term called, “N.E.A.T” or “Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis”.
This is the number of total calories our bodies burn for everything we do that is NOT sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. (source)
This means all the calories our bodies burn throughout the day from things such as cleaning the house, taking a walk with the kids, gardening or laundry.
Basically the calories we burn from just moving our bodies.
The more calories our bodies burn throughout the day through either exercise or N.E.A.T, the better we are able to manage or lose weight.
And remind yourself this, “the more I move, the more I lose.”
4. Add Extra Protein
Protein is the building block for our entire body.
Not only does it help us to repair and rebuild our muscles, it also helps us control appetite.
Increasing your muscle mass also helps speed up your metabolism which will help your body to burn more calories throughout the day.
If you struggle to cook enough protein, try adding in a daily protein shake. This is my go-to during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
I also strongly recommend trying collagen protein.
Collagen is basically the building blocks of our hair, nails , skin, ligaments, joints and connective tissue.
However, collagen will help repair your joints and the connective tissue in your core to help your body heal from pregnancy.
And if you want to avoid postpartum hair loss, collagen will help with that too.
5. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated has more to do with assisting in weight loss than it does with keeping up your breastmilk supply. (source)
Our bodies can have a difficult time distinguishing between thirst and hunger.
This often causes us to reach for snacks instead of quenching our thirst first.
If you are trying to lose weight or notice a dip in your breast milk supply, always try drinking more water or calorie free fluids before grabbing something to eat.
The best way for me to stay on track with drinking my water is to fill a large water bottle everyday and
6. Try Electrolyte Drinks
While the jury is still out on whether electrolyte drinks help with breastmilk supply, I personally swear by it.
We can lose a lot of electrolytes through our sweat and the theory behind electrolyte drinks like Gatorade is that dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance can lower your breastmilk supply.
When I’m feeling a dip in my supply, especially after a sweaty workout, I immediately drink more water and Gatorade Zero.
But make sure you choose the ones with low or no calories.
I get it on Amazon because it’s easier to have it shipped to my doorstep than having to lug 20 bottles of Gatorade and from the store to my house.
7. Squeeze in Exercise Whenever and Wherever you Can
Finding time, energy and motivation to exercise with a newborn can feel impossible, especially if you have other kids around.
But even just 10 minutes a day can help you lose weight and reshape your body.
When the weather is nice, take the baby for a stroller walk.
Throw in some lunges and squats on the walk and you’ve just upped your calorie burn for the day!
The inspiration for this program came after my second baby was born and I only had a few minutes a day to workout.
I quickly discovered that the quality of your workouts is more important than quantity and you can still reach your weight loss goals without strict time commitments!
Trust me, several 10 minute workouts spread throughout the day can add up to huge results!
Being a mom can be extremely stressful.
Adding in a few workouts can help you burn off some stress, boost mood and increase your energy to help keep up with the demanding mommy tasks!
8. Don’t Give Up!
I know, I know, this is way easier said than done.
Especially if you’re not seeing results as quickly as you hoped.
It is very hard not to get discouraged when you feel insecure in your postpartum body and frustrated that you are unable to reach your goals as quickly as you hoped.
But keep in mind, breastfeeding can either help with weight loss or prevent you from losing those last few pounds.
However, it is important to remember that everyone experiences weight loss differently.
The most important thing you can do is focus on your own goals and not compare your progress to others.
If you stay consistent, your hard work and dedication will inevitably pay off!
Final Thoughts on Postpartum Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
Your postpartum weight loss journey is unique to you, your baby and your lifestyle.
Some moms are lucky to have babies that sleep well at night allowing them to feel more energized.
Other moms have babies that are not great sleepers, leaving them feeling more tired and hungry.
Take your postpartum weight loss journey one day at a time because I can assure that this is such a short period of time!
Take one small step every single day to reaching your goals and you WILL reach them eventually.
You got this mama!
I’m only one email away from helping you reach your goals or answer any questions. Never hesitate to reach out!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.