Monday, June 7, 2010

Losing weight after baby: Will breastfeeding help?

When it comes to losing weight after having a baby, it seems celebrities are the experts. In a flash, famous new moms go from baby bump to red carpet ready. Stars such as Christina Aguilera and Alyson Hannigan credit breastfeeding with most of their postpartum weight loss.

Yes, research shows that breastfeeding more frequently and for longer than six months increases maternal weight loss. In fact, the process of milk production burns about 200 to 500 calories per day, which can help moms drop the baby weight a little bit faster. It might not be the case that all moms will see significant weight loss while breastfeeding, but many report that they slim down quickly without much extra work.

You might be one of those moms who needs a little more help getting back to your pre-baby shape. But if you're breastfeeding, you might wonder how to do it without jeopardizing milk production or you and your baby's health. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to weight loss while breastfeeding:

Wait until Baby is two months old. This is how long it takes for your body to recover from childbirth and establish a good milk supply. Resist a jump-start diet soon after giving birth. An article on the La Leche League International (LLLI) website references a study showing that breastfeeding mothers lose more weight naturally when their babies are three to six months old, compared to mothers who are bottle feeding and consuming fewer calories.

Don't skimp on calories. Breastfeeding moms should eat at least 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day, and you should probably be closer to the high end of that. A significant drop in calories puts milk supply at risk. LLLI gives an important reminder to mothers limiting their caloric intake:
"Pay special attention to eating a balanced and varied diet, including foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and folate. If adequate dietary requirements are not met, calcium, multivitamin, and mineral supplements may be needed."
Avoid fad diets and losing weight too quickly. Quick-fix solutions such as crash diets, low-carb diets, and medications that promise rapid weight loss are not recommended. It's safe to lose up to 1.5 pounds a week (after that two month grace period). If you stick to that number, you shouldn't affect milk supply or your baby's nutrition.

Live a healthy lifestyle. Whether you have a new baby or not, the number one rule of a healthy lifestyle and easy weight loss is eating right and staying active. Yes, new moms can exercise! Just do it in moderation. Take a walk every day and eat several smaller meals instead of three large ones. And make sure you don't put your body into starvation mode by skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

We know breast is best when it comes to your babies development and health and that breastfeeding does have its weight loss perks. But the bottom line is, be cautious as you work to get back to your pre-pregnancy body. Set reasonable, moderate goals so both of you can be healthy and happy.


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