Forget what you’ve heard — this is the TRUTH about breastfeeding and weight loss! Learn how to lose the weight gained during pregnancy while breastfeeding WITHOUT losing milk supply.
Over the past two years since I had my little one, I’ve written quite a few times about my efforts to lose and keep off the baby weight. (The struggle is real!!)
Throughout my journey, I’ve read quite a few weight loss tips for breastfeeding moms that promised that I would lose the weight gained during pregnancy. Some are legit, some are a joke, so I wanted to share the ones that really made a difference for me.
What You Might Have Heard About Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
We all have that one friend that doesn’t even look like she had a baby. So what’s her secret??
RUMOR: Breastfeeding burns TONS of calories you can eat whatever you want.
You’ve probably heard that if you breastfeed that the weight will “just fall right off.” Perhaps one of your friends or relatives has done a little humble-bragging about how they are skinnier than even before they were pregnant.
Lies! All of them!
Ok, well it might work for some mamas. (Lucky!) But it won’t work for all of us.
FACT: Breastfeeding does burn calories, but sometimes not enough to lose weight.
The amount of calories burned as a result of nursing varies widely from person to person. So don’t count on breastfeeding to do it all for you!
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Breastfeeding burns between 200-500 calories a day. The actual amount varies depending on a few different factors, as well as your own genetics. (source)
Generally, you burn more calories breastfeeding if:
- You are exclusively breastfeeding (8-12 nursing sessions per day)
- You have good milk supply (if you have a low milk supply, click here for tips to increase milk supply)
- Your baby is younger and does not eat any other type of food (formula, solids, etc.)
How many calories should I consume to lose weight while breastfeeding?
Until you have an established milk supply, the word “diet” should not be in your vocabulary. While breastfeeding, it is important to consume enough calories to nourish both you and your baby.
You don’t necessarily need to eat more than normal while breastfeeding — eating around 2000 calories a day, give or take, should be a reasonable goal. (source)
Reasons You’re NOT Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
If you’re nursing consistently, but find that that baby weight just isn’t budging, it might not be entirely your fault.
Some people gain more weight during pregnancy. With both of my pregnancies, I gained between 45-50 pounds. During my first pregnancy, my main exercises were light yoga and walking. With my second pregnancy I did more intense workouts, but the weight gain was the same.
It also took me about the same amount of time to lose the baby weight from both pregnancies. Some people lose the baby weight easily, and some will have to work at it.
Genetics play a BIG part in our body size and shape throughout our lives – including during pregnancy and postpartum.
In addition to genetics, hormones play a role in how quickly we lose weight while breastfeeding.
That’s because breastfeeding produces a hormone that can have the opposite effect of your weight loss goals. The hormone prolactin is necessary to make breast milk, but it also affects the body’s metabolism (source)
Essentially, this hormone causes your body cling to that last little bit of baby weight. Sort of like your body is worried it will “run out” of nutrition for the both of you and is keeping those fat stores as an insurance policy.
That seems to have been the case for me anyway.
We can’t change our genetics. Hormones are a fact of life.
However, we can make changes to our lifestyle that will help us to lose weight while breastfeeding. And the good news is that these changes aren’t even necessarily major ones! (Because you don’t want to make any major changes to your diet or exercise routines until you’ve established a solid milk supply).
Perhaps there are a few things we don’t even realize are holding us back, but once we identify them and make adjustments, the weight finally starts to go away.
You see, I worked out (and still do) daily. I don’t eat dairy or gluten. I thought I was doing everything right (without being obsessive about it).
But I still couldn’t get those last few inches to budge.
And then I realized what I was doing wrong…
Once I made a few simple switches to my routine, I finally saw the results I wanted.
Eleven months after delivery, I could zip up my pre-baby size pants (aka “mom jeans“). (I thought it would take about 11 months less than that, but I was pretty naive!)
The good news: you can do it too!
Don’t worry, I won’t keep these “secrets” to myself. I’m passionate about sharing healthy lifestyle tips for other moms to live their best lives too, so I love to share things that have worked in my own life.
Keep reading to learn how to lose weight while breastfeeding — what actually worked for me and could help you too! These are all things I did to lose weight without losing my milk supply.
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding WITHOUT Losing Your Milk Supply
One of the most important considerations when nursing is that you want to lose weight without losing your milk supply. These weight loss tips for breastfeeding moms can help to shed the weight gained during pregnancy, while maintaining a healthy milk supply.
I’ve included affiliate links for products I use and love that I think you might love too; disclosure policy available here.
1. Eat breakfast
I know so many people that skip this meal, but breakfast is crucial!
Think of your metabolism as being like a car engine sitting in idle after you’ve been asleep all night. If you don’t put some fuel in the engine to kick start your metabolism, it will continue to sit in idle until you do! When your metabolism isn’t running at full speed, then you’re not burning as many calories as you could be. Try and sneak in a few fruits and vegetables into your breakfast if you can!
Think you’re too busy for breakfast? Think again! Here’s how I make it happen:
- Bookmark healthy diet recipes — If you have a few go-to meal ideas handy, you’ll always be ready! Try this list of 101+ Healthy Recipes; it includes some of my favorites that I eat every week!
- Keep grab-n-go breakfast options on hand — I like to keep some of these RXBars at home so if I’m in a hurry I can grab a healthy snack on my way out the door. It keeps my body fueled, helps prevent an energy crash later, and I’m less likely to give in to temptation and order something unhealthy at Starbucks, etc.
2. Drink LOTS of water
I say this often, but I can’t say it enough! Breastfeeding moms need more water that normal, and dehydration can be easily mistaken for hunger. (Plus it just makes you feel all-around crappy!) Drink water, feel full longer, and feel better all day long! Drinking plenty of water is also crucial for a healthy diet.
- Don’t like the taste of water? Try these 3 fruit-infused water recipes to make drinking water taste more delicious (without adding calories!)
- Keep forgetting to drink enough water? Get a motivational water bottle like this one and carry it everywhere you go. Keeping track of your water intake and having water availabe at all times makes a BIG difference in meeting your goals!
Related: These 3 easy switches helped me to drink more water every day…without even thinking about it!
3. Squeeze in Exercise…wherever you can!
When I say squeeze, I mean that literally! Stuck under a newborn who wants to be latched to your boob all day? Do some simple glute squeezes while you sit! (So simple but they really work!! Click the link below for my other favorite glute burning moves!)
When the weather is nice, pop the baby in the stroller and start walking — it’s good for the both of you! (Read: 10 Awesome Benefits to Walking) Finding time to exercise can be hard with a newborn, and especially if you have other children too, but if you get creative you can make a work out happen just about anytime, anywhere.
An extra benefit of exercise: Not only will increasing your activity level help you lose weight while breastfeeding, it will make you feel better too! Studies show that exercise can help prevent and lessen the effects of pregnancy-related and postpartum mood disorders, like the “baby blues” or even postpartum depression.
If you do better with a structured workout routine, I’d highly encourage you to try hot yoga or P90X3. My husband and I decided to give it a try because he loved an earlier version of the program and this one is only 30 minutes a day. Ya’ll this whipped my booty into shape! The “after” photo of me below is after I’d done about 2 months of the program and NO dieting!
If you’re really pressed for time, try one of my favorite 5-minute workouts:
Note: Before you start exercising, focus on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles “keep everything together” and they often take a beating during pregnancy and delivery.
4. Don’t eat after dinner
Late night snacking (even if it’s a pretty healthy snack) can majorly undermine your weight-loss efforts.
Remember that engine? Well it’s winding down in the evening, getting ready to go into idle for the night.
Your body doesn’t burn calories as quickly or as effectively during this time, so it’s best to wait until breakfast. If you pass on nighttime snacking, you’ll be hungry in the morning and less likely to skip breakfast — a win-win! (See #1)
5. Evaluate WHAT you’re eating
Sometimes it’s not how much we’re eating, but it’s what we’re eating. Even if you’re watching the amount of food you’re taking in, if it’s not the right kind of food, it can still stick around.
I never count calories or diet while breastfeeding — the baby is my number one priority and I don’t want to negatively affect milk supply. However, I make an effort to choose foods that provide nutrition: fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbs (quinoa is my favorite).
You’ve GOT to Try This: Quinoa Apple Cake is the best breakfast, dessert, or anytime recipe that tastes so good you won’t believe it’s healthy!
If you’re filling up on good things, you won’t be as hungry for the “bad” stuff. Plus, once you get it out of your system, you might be surprised how much you don’t miss it!
The most important thing to remember…
Keep at it and keep your head up!!
Don’t get discouraged if the weight doesn’t fall off as quickly as you expected!
Remember, it took an entire year for me to lose it, and I was in really good shape before I got pregnant. (And it’s still a daily battle to keep it off!)
Losing weight is hard and trying to lose 20, 30, 40, or more pregnancy pounds is going to be work! But you CAN do it!
To prove it, here are two photos of me, less than a year apart. I lost the baby weight with hard work, time, and without crazy diets. I’m just a normal mom, who’s not even super comfortable posting a photo of myself in a bathing suit, but I want to show the real results! You CAN do this too!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Best Breastfeeding Products & Pumping Gear – my comprehensive guide to all of the things that helped me reach my nursing goals. Full of great gift ideas for the new mamas in your life!
Read more of my own post-baby weight loss journey and tips here.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my own personal experience; I am not a medical professional. Your results might be different than mine. Always consult your physician before starting a new diet or exercise routine.
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