If you’re concerned about how to shed those unwanted pregnancy pounds, consider breastfeeding your baby. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a 2008 study citing mothers who had gained the recommended weight during pregnancy and then exclusively breastfed their babies for six months postpartum. Overall, these mothers measured at or below their pre-pregnancy weight.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study also reported that 52 percent of women of childbearing age are overweight and another 29 percent are obese. Being overweight or obese makes losing pregnancy weight even more difficult and might actually prevent many women from breastfeeding. Unfortunately, 38 percent of women gain more weight than doctors recommend during pregnancy. A woman who is of a normal weight and has a body mass index measuring between 18.5 and 24.9 should gain 25 to 35 lbs when pregnant.
The recommended daily caloric intake for a non-lactating woman is 2000 calories. As outlined by the International Breastfeeding Journal, breastfeeding mothers should consume an extra 330 calories per day to sustain their milk supply. However, nursing mothers expend an average of 500 calories per day feeding their babies. This means they expend more energy than they consume.
Various health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months if you and your baby are able. During the first half year of her life, your baby receives all the nutrition she needs to thrive from breast milk alone. You should continue breastfeeding throughout her first year as you introduce solid foods into her diet. Beyond that, the decision of when to stop breastfeeding should be up to you and your baby.
In addition to promoting postpartum weight loss, breastfeeding helps you recover faster from delivery and may protect against breast and ovarian cancer. There are also many benefits for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes exclusive breastfeeding for six months as a way to protect against respiratory, ear and urinary tract infections, as well as bacterial meningitis. Long-term health benefits include a reduced risk of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as improved cognitive performance.
When considering breastfeeding as a means of postpartum weight loss, you should factor in other lifestyle choices that can affect how effectively you lose the pregnancy weight. Most importantly, the foods you eat and how active you are will greatly influence your overall weight loss. Instead of regarding breastfeeding as a means of losing weight, you should make it part of a healthy lifestyle choice for you and your baby.
- newborn image by Valentin Mosichev from Fotolia.com