How Can You Safely Lose Weight While Breastfeeding? Get Nutrition And Exercise Tips To Help You Lose The Baby Weight While Keeping Your Milk Supply Up.

The medical establishment has long touted the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. Breast milk is nutritional superior for babies and breastfeeding itself can help a new mother lose some of the weight gained during pregnancy. Moderate weight gain during pregnancy is natural but afterwards, it can be hard to shed the excessive pounds. Exercising and weight loss during breastfeeding can be done successfully however; any dieting attempts or restrictions should be cleared by your doctor first to ensure that you are achieving your breastfeeding nutritional needs and the baby's too.

Christine Cristiano

 

Daily exercise is beneficial to new mothers physically and mentally. According to Eileen Adams, Group Leader, La Leche League, Rochester, NY Chapter, some mothers have expressed concern that exercising while breastfeeding can cause a build up of lactic acid in the body which in turn will affect the taste of milk or breastfeeding itself. Adams points out that several research studies have concluded that moderate exercise will not increase lactate levels in the mother's blood or breast milk and may increase a mother’s milk volume slightly.

Benefits of exercise

Through her training, Adams advises new mothers to exercise daily which will, in turn, restore muscle strength and help tone up the body.“The abdominal muscles stretch during pregnancy,” Adams explains.  “It will take some time for muscles to firm up and return to normal.”  In addition, Adams notes that exercise is a good method for reducing stress, increasing energy levels and will boost your mood.

Losing Pregnancy Weight

Normal weight gain is a part of pregnancy and the extra pounds are used to store energy for breastfeeding. As the healing process ends, most new mothers are eager to make to return to their pre-pregnancy weight but confused as to how to go about it. Most doctors will advise new mothers to refrain from any conscious weight loss strategies for about 2-3 months postnatal. During that time, new mothers need to concentrate their efforts on recovering from childbirth and establishing a steady milk supply for their baby.  One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that most breastfeeding mothers will lose weight effortlessly by maintaining a proper diet, eating normally and breastfeeding regularly.

At three months postnatal, new mothers may consider reducing their calorie intake by refraining from the consumption of trans fats, sugary sweets and junk food and consider starting a regular exercise regime to lose the remaining of their pregnancy weight. Recovery times for vaginal births versus caesareans differ so it is highly recommended that you consult with your physician before starting any weight loss or exercise program.

According to the La Leche League, breastfeeding mothers should consume 1500 – 1800 calories daily however breastfeeding burns up calories so an increase in physical activity is preferable to calorie cutting when a moderate, healthy diet is already being followed.

A diet low in fats, high in fiber, vegetables, and fruit is recommended and foods with a high nutritional value are necessary for losing excess weight while maintaining a healthy milk supply. Crash diets, liquid diets and dieting supplements are not recommended while breastfeeding because these methods can restrict the intake of important vitamins and minerals necessary to both mother and baby.

“It may sound trite, but the best way to combine breastfeeding with exercise and losing weight is to do everything in moderation.” Adams recommends.  “Eat nutritious foods until your hunger is satisfied.”

Postpartum Exercising

In addition to the physical benefits, exercising can reduce the effects of mild postpartum depression. According to the La Leche League guidelines, exercise can improve the mental well being of new mothers and help with mild depression because “exercise boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, and releases endorphins to relieve pain and create a sense of well-being."

The University of Michigan, Depression Centre advocates that exercise has a positive effect on postpartum depression because “exercise helps treat depression by releasing the body's mood-elevating compounds, reducing the depression hormone, cortisol, in the blood, providing perspective on life, providing a feeling of accomplishment, enhancing self-esteem, and increasing levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter found to be key in the development of depression).”

Upon your doctor’s approval, new mothers can start to exercise 8 weeks postpartum but it’s recommended to start slowly and build up your endurance and strength gradually.  If you experience dizziness, or shortness of breath while exercising, stop immediately and consult with your doctor.

Exercise goal

A daily exercise goal of 10 – 15 minutes per day is a realistic start for new mothers and can be increased gradually. Yoga is ideal for stretching and toning your muscles or a brisk walk daily can get your body moving. Mild aerobic exercises are ideal to get your heart pumping and help your cardiovascular system. Incorporate kegel exercises into your routine; these exercises involve making small contractions of the vaginal wall that strengthen your pelvic floor and can help with bladder control issues after childbirth.

Exercising will be more comfortable when your breasts are empty so schedule any exercise time for after feeding time. Also, to minimize breast discomfort when exercising, consider wearing a sports bra over your nursing bra for added support.

If you have trouble staying motivated, some local community centres offer exercises classes specially geared for postpartum mothers. These special exercise classes are great for getting fit and can also become an added support group for you.

“Exercise comfortably without going overboard.” Adam suggests.  “Finding an exercise partner, possibly at a La Leche League group, can make it easier to stick to an exercise routine.”

Amid your efforts to return to your pre-pregnancy form, be realistic in your weight loss and exercise goals; it may take up to a year to lose all your weight.

“Take it slowly,” Adams advises.  “And you will eventually reach your goal.” 

 

More on breastfeeding and losing weight:

 

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