Are you gaining weight while breastfeeding? Here's why.
Being a new mum and experiencing weight gain is frustrating. It's incredibly disheartening when you hear of women claiming that their mum tum melted off thanks to breastfeeding.
The truth is neither weight gain nor weight loss can be attributed to breastfeeding alone. A range of factors are responsible for your postpartum weight, including the types of foods you're eating, the total number of calories you're consuming, as well as your age, metabolic rate, activity level and cortisol levels.
So, if you're someone who thinks they're doing everything right but still gaining weight while breastfeeding, here are some reasons that might explain why.
Why am I gaining weight while breastfeeding?
1. You're eating more calories than you are burning in a day.
Breastfeeding mums burn on average an additional 300-500 calories per day.
300-500 calories may sound like a lot, but it's only the equivalent of adding a couple of pieces of fruit and a couple of boiled eggs to your total daily food intake.
If you are trying to lose weight, you don't want to replace the total 300-500 calories with food because this will cause you to maintain or even gain weight.
Instead, you want to create a slight calorie deficit every day. At the end of the day, you want to consume fewer total calories than the calories you've burned.
If you consistently consume 50-150 fewer calories than you burn in a day, you should see a steady and consistent drop in kilograms, without compromising your milk supply.
Note, the number of calories required in a day differs from person to person. There is no one size sits all. Your individual requirements are based on your age, weight, height, whether you are partially or exclusively breastfeeding and your activity level. To see how many calories your body needs to lose weight while supporting your mill supply, see out calorie calculator here.
2. You're eating the wrong foods.
It's important to remember that calories are not made equal. One hundred calories worth of chocolate is not equal to 100 calories worth of eggs. Chocolate is high in sugar and simple carbohydrates with little protein. It's full of empty calories that will not fill you up, which leads to overeating later on. On the other hand, eggs are high in good quality protein and are full of other nutritious vitamins and minerals to fuel your body and sustain your hunger.
We know it's hard to eat healthy when you're a breastfeeding mum. You're the busiest and most tired you've been in your entire life, so it's natural to crave high sugar foods that give you an instant energy boost. But if you commit to eating healthily 90% of the time, you won't experience rollercoaster style peaks and dips in your blood sugar levels, and you'll find your energy is much more stable.
In Shape Mummy can be your saviour here because it's so quick and convenient. It's a one-handed job, can be prepared in under five minutes, will fuel your body with protein and essential vitamins and minerals, all while satisfying your sweet cravings.
Here's our popular energiser smoothie recipe:
1 cup almond milk
1 frozen banana
½ cup frozen raspberries
2 tbsp rolled oats
2 tbsp vanilla In Shape Mummy Health Shake
3. Not consuming enough nutrients
Many breastfeeding women are so eager to drop the baby weight that they drastically cut their calories and even starve themselves. There are problems with this approach. First is that you will you be putting your body under extreme pressure and hindering your postpartum recovery. Second it that, it can backfire and lead to weight retention. Third, you need to consume enough nutrients to support your baby’s growth and development.
Your body needs proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins to repair and transform postpartum. If you don’t eat enough of these vital nutrients, you will slow your recovery.
If your body doesn't get enough nutrients to support yourself and your little one, it can lead to your metabolism slowing down to conserve energy. And a slowing metabolism can reduce weight loss, and even lead to weight gain.
When you're breastfeeding, the nutrients you eat pass through your breastmilk. So, it's important to pack in as many nutrients as you can so that you and your little one can thrive. We're not saying you can't have treats now and then, but nutrient-dense snacks like raw nuts, eggs, tinned tuna and salmon, Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit and vegetables should be your priority. Eating these foods will help get your baby the nutrients they need for their healthy growth and development.
4. Mindless snacking
Having little kids means always having a supply of snacks on hand. And if you're snacking, you need to be aware of how many extra calories you're consuming. Mindless snacking or finishing off your kids' leftovers is one of the most detrimental things for losing weight. You'd be surprised at how quickly the calories add up.
Two handfuls of Shapes contain over 120 calories, as does an Uncle Toby's muesli bar. Three Oreo cookies are 160 calories, and a serving of potato chips is around 150 calories. So, you can see, if you have a cookie here and a handful of chips there, the calories add up super quickly. Ultimately this could be the reason why you do not see a weight shift.
Our tip is to always have wholesome snacks on hand; it's easier to say no to something unhealthy if a healthy option is sitting right there. Vegetable sticks, boiled eggs, hummus on rice cakes and smoothies are all fantastic snack options.
5. Unhealthy cooking methods
The number of calories in popular cooking oils is quite shocking. Below are the total calories for 1 tbsp of the most common cooking oils:
Vegetable oil: 124
Olive oil: 119
Coconut oil: 117
It's unrealistic to cut out oil from your cooking, and it's also unnecessary. But what's important is knowing that if you're a little loose handed with your oil, you could quickly be adding anywhere from100-300 extra calories to your meal.
We recommend measuring your oil and reducing the amount when you can. So many recipes require copious amounts of oil, but, if you reduce the amount by ½ or 1/3 you could save yourself 200+ calories without affecting the flavour of your meal.
Even if you use healthy oil, frying will add a lot of calories to food. Instead try baking or boiling food when cooking.
6. Drinking too many calories
Fizzy drinks and store-bought juices are an easy way to consume extra calories. A 330ml can of Coke contains a whopping 39g of sugar and 140 calories. A serving (200ml) of Golden Circle orange juice contains over 15g of sugar and 82 calories. So having one of these drinks a day will see you reach and even exceed your recommended daily sugar intake, as well as add significant calories. We all know processed sugar is the enemy to weight loss.
If you're trying to lose weight, there a lots of sugar-free delicious drink options. Kombucha, in particular, is a low sugar fizzy drink that contains probiotics that support gut health. And the, In Shape Mummy contains less than 1g of sugar and is also packed with gut-loving probiotics.
Why Do I Feel So Hungry While Breastfeeding?
Producing milk requires energy, which is why you end up burning extra calories. However, most breastfeeding mums are also tired and stressed, which can lead to comfort eating.
The combination of being hungry and comfort eating could mean you see the numbers on the scales go up. When you know the chocolate is in the fridge, it’s hard to muster the energy to find something nutritious to eat. Uber Eats and Deliveroo make temptations all the more difficult to ignore.
That’s why you need to have a plan to combat that hunger. You’ll notice a pattern to your appetite, so get out in front of it by having some boiled eggs or fruit on hand when it strikes.
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 your existing fat stores.
Weight loss isn't about feeling hungry all the time. It's about eating what you need to reach a healthy 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 follow the 90/10 rule 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.
Will you lose weight when you stop breastfeeding?
When you are breastfeeding, if you ensure the calories you consume are less than the calories you’re burning, you will continue to lose weight. In addition, you may find that you have more inclination for exercise around this time, so incorporating a few walks and a couple of home workouts into your routine will help put you further into a deficit.
How do In Shape Mummy Health Shakes help you lose weight?
In Shape Mummy can help you reach these 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.
Can I keep using In Shape Mummy once I stop breastfeeding?
Yes. In Shape Mummy have another range of shakes that are made for Busy Mums. Our In Shape Mummy Health Shake for Busy Mums contains the same nutrients as our Breastfeeding Shake but it does not contain the galactagogues (milk boosting herbs). Our Busy Mums Shake is 100% breastfeeding friendly so it is perfect for mums who want to wean their babies. It is a great way to continue getting in shake and ensure you're consuming enough protein, vitamins and minerals.
Our Breastfeeding Shake is still completely OK to consume once you have finished breastfeeding, however as it contains milk boosting herbs we recommend taking a break from in while you are in the process of weaning until your milk supply has dried up.
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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