After the joys of pregnancy and giving birth, your attention quickly turns to how to lose the baby weight? The good news is breastfeeding can actually help you to shed the extra kilos gained during pregnancy. This is because when your body produces milk, it uses two sources of energy; fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy and calories from your food.
However, breastfeeding isn't a free pass to weight loss. At the end of the day, you'll still have to burn more calories than you consume. That's why it's important to understand how many calories you're consuming and many calories you're burning.
Does breastfeeding burn calories?
The short answer is yes. Research shows that breastfeeding women burn an extra 300-500 calories a day in the first two months. That's the equivalent of performing 45-60 minutes of medium intensity exercise or skipping lunch. That sounds like a lot of calories, doesn't it? So why do so many women report that breastfeeding has no impact on their weight loss?
Why the weight isn't dropping off
You might have heard that breastfeeding is the secret to 'bouncing back' but sadly is not a license to eat cake. Even though breastfeeding women generally lose weight quicker than those who don't breastfeed, the golden rule still applies – you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight.
So, if you add 300-500 extra calories onto your plate every day, you'll maintain your weight – not lose it. If you fill those extra calories with low-nutrient, high-calorie, high-sugar foods and drinks you'll make your weight loss journey even more difficult.
Using that extra calorie burning to your advantage
Firstly, if you're breastfeeding, the best thing for Mum and Bub is to enjoy a diet full of healthy foods. That means enjoying a wide range of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. And remember, all this goodness is also passed onto your baby.
Secondly, you need to remember that you if you want to lose weight you shouldn't add the full extra 300-500 calories you burn by breastfeeding. Our bodies are adept at converting existing fat stores into energy. So, if you keep topping up your body with food, it never has to use these fat stores, which means you don't lose any of that weight. However, if you reduce your intake even by 50-100 calories, your body will burn those fat stores, and you'll notice a big difference in your weight loss.
Eating for weight loss
A common misconception is that you need to bulk up your meal with carbs or consume extra meals to support milk production. But that's not necessarily true. If you're not losing weight while breastfeeding, have a look at both you're eating as well as your portion sizes.
For example, an extra serving of pasta equals about 300 calories. That means that one extra serving could mean your one extra serving matches the extra calories breastfeeding burns or even go over. If you do this at every meal, you can see how your calorie intakes can quickly exceed what you're burning.
So, instead of relying on carbs or big portions to get you through the day, try and stick to well-portioned and balanced meals. Fill your plate with greens, lean protein and healthy fats, and you'll stay fuller for longer. Of course, carbs are a great source of energy and crucial for mum and bub. But, if you opt for wholegrain or wholefood forms of carbs, you'll avoid those blood sugar spikes and crashes that make you constantly raid the pantry or fridge.
Of course, looking after a baby is tiring. It's natural to get hungry in between meals. Don't fight this feeling. If you get hungry, give yourself a healthy snack. The best snacks for breastfeeding mums are anything that is high in protein. A boiled egg or a handful of nuts will get you through to your next meal without blowing out your calorie count. If you're short on time, an In Shape Mummy Health Shake will give you the nutrients you need to power through the day while also helping your milk supply.
It's essential not to let yourself get too hungry. Hungry Mums are far more likely to make poor food choices and end up cycling between feeling starving to feeling overfull. Instead, you want to aim to feel about 80% full after eating. You can do this by eating smaller sized meal sizes more regularly and eating healthy snacks. When you find this balance, you'll feel more energetic, you won't feel the need to overeat or reach for sugary or carby snacks, and you'll also give your body a chance to burn some of those fat stores.
Many breastfeeding Mums crave nutrient-dense foods. Your body is asking for more because you need to share them with your baby. Your body also becomes more efficient at extracting and using those nutrients. If you start introducing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, you'll soon find that your craving for highly processed foods diminishes.
Will my milk dry up if I focus on weight loss?
Healthy, sustainable weight loss will not dry your milk up. As long as you're not significantly reducing your calories or creating a significant caloric deficit, your body will find more than enough nutrients to produce milk from the foods you eat and from your existing fat stores.
Weight loss isn't about feeling hungry all the time. It's about eating what you need to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. If you're breastfeeding, that means eating to account for the extra energy you're burning without going overboard or devoting those extra calories to chocolate cake.
In fact, by shifting your mindset away from how much you're eating to what you're eating, you'll actually support milk production in many cases. A diet full of whole foods, lean protein and healthy fats is exactly what your body is craving. Extra calories comprised of refined sugar or carbohydrates don't provide any nutritional value for you, your breastmilk, or your bub. Of course, if you're having a tough day, treat yourself but remember to realign your food and weight loss goals afterwards.
So, now you know the truth about breastfeeding and weight loss. Yes, breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it is an excellent tool for returning to your goal weight. But it is just one part of the puzzle. If you consume more calories than you're burning, you won't lose weight. But, if you eat until you're 80% full and fill your plate with goodness, you'll be able to support your milk production and your weight loss goals all at the same time.
In Shape Mummy Health Shakes can help you reach your goals quicker. In Shape Mummy is perfect for busy mums. All you need to do is throw two scoops into your blender, mix with some fruit or vegetables, and maybe some oats or nut butter, and you have a perfectly balanced meal in under five minutes.
The In Shape Mummy blend is designed to support milk supply, while also balance blood sugar levels, to help reduce cravings and the need for snacking. Every shake is enriched with protein, 25 vitamins and minerals and probiotics to support you and your little one.
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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