Does Breastfeeding Help a Mother Lose Weight?

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Losing weight is a major concern for many new moms. Fortunately, if you breastfeed, you may take the pregnancy weight off more quickly. Since calories are burned while producing milk and nursing your baby, nursing moms have an added weight loss advantage. If you are a mom who opts not to breastfeed, you’ll need to rely strictly on diet and exercise to lose your pregnancy weight.

Breastfeeding Moms Burn Calories

Nursing mothers who breastfeed their babies exclusively can burn more than 600 calories per day, according to Breastfeeding.com. Since it requires approximately 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb. of body fat, nursing moms have the potential to lose almost 6 lbs. per week when nursing if they consume calorie amounts that are consistent with weight maintenance. Losing weight this rapidly, however, is not advised by the La Leche League International, or LLLI.

Supplementing with Formula

Your milk production is based on supply and demand. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk your body produces. Eventually, your body adjusts to produce the amount of milk your baby needs. If you are supplementing with formula, you may be producing less milk. The less milk your body produces, the fewer calories you burn. So while you may lose weight if you breastfeed and supplement with formula, you are likely not to lose it as quickly as if you were nursing exclusively.

When Combined with a Healthy Diet

If you are nursing, you’ll need to eat a minimum 2,200 calories per day to keep your milk supply flowing and filled with the proper nutrients for your baby, according to FamilyEducation.com. Since breastfeeding burns calories each day, nursing moms who eat between 2,200 and 2,700 calories per day should still lose weight. If you eat excessively more calories than this when nursing, you can end up gaining, rather than losing, weight.

In Combination with Exercise

If you are eating a well-balanced, healthy diet and not losing weight while breastfeeding, you may wish to increase your activity level. Once your postpartum provider gives you the OK to exercise, adding 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine can facilitate weight loss. Taking a brisk walk while pushing your baby in a carriage or working out to an exercise video at home are both suitable activities for many nursing moms.

Dieting Misconceptions

Many healthcare providers and even the LLLI used to caution breastfeeding moms against losing weight too quickly. They did so because it was believed that when nursing moms lost weight rapidly, the toxins that were stored in their body fat and normally released into their bloodstream would end up in their breast milk. Since then, it’s been discovered that weight loss has no significant impact on the toxins in breast milk, according the LLLI and BabyCenter.com

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