A look at the science behind breastfeeding and what it means for your waistline
The conversation surrounding breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding usually pegs health benefits against convenience. A less common talking point? The reported pound-shedding effect of nursing your baby.
So is breastfeeding the rocket sure way to lose weight and fit back into your regular clothes? Yes and no. Research does support that breastfeeding can help new moms lose weight, but it’s not the only way to slim down.
Breast Feeding Can Make You Slimmer, as breastfeeding moms can burn anything between 300-500 calories a day. However a lactating moms body requires energy to create breast milk, so most general practitioners usually recommend women eat a few hundred extra calories a day. If a breastfeeding woman loses weight rapidly, it’s usually because she’s not taking in any extra calories.
So, yes, breastfeeding does burn extra calories but losing weight while breastfeeding is rarely a given because a natural consequence of breastfeeding is that it makes moms hungrier. And hungry, sleep-deprived new moms tend to satisfy their cravings with simple carbohydrates – sweets, chocolate bars, doughnuts, cookies – and it’s not exactly easy to lose weight when you’re eating those.
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Don’t pressure yourself
So, no, you won’t be wearing your pre-pregnancy slinky outfits straight away. And trying to squeeze into them in the early few weeks after childbirth will be discouraging. It took a good nine months to put all that baby weight on, so be easy on yourself and allow at least nine months to get it off and get your body back.
It’s important to take your eye off the excess weight for at least the first two weeks after birth, and focus on what’s important, your baby. In fairness, it’s more sensible to wait six weeks or even longer before actively trying to lose weight. It can take that long for a baby to adapt to the hustle and bustle of the outside world, and for both mother and child to get used to breastfeeding. A rigid diet or exercise plan is the last thing you need.
Opt for smart alternatives
Think before you snack. Instead of reaching for the Doritos, pop some popcorn. Instead of having packaged cereal, make a batch of steel-cut oatmeal. Starchy veggies, such as baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, can also satisfy your craving for carbs. Brown and wild rice are a good side dish and snack options, too.
For new moms looking for smart alternatives, below are a few options for meals during the day
Breakfast • Parfait: Greek yoghurt, high-fibre cereal (look for at least 8g of fibre per serving), a cup of berries. (raspberries have 8g of fibre per cup, blueberries have 5) • Omelette: Egg white omelette filled with your favourite veggies, topped with a little low-fat cheese, served with high-fibre English muffin, whole wheat toast, or high-fibre wrap
Lunch • Soup: lentil soup with a whole-wheat roll, split pea soup with high-fibre crackers • Sandwich: Whole grain bread with any lean protein (tuna salad, turkey, roast beef, grilled chicken, tofu) • Salad: lettuce and vegetables with grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, or canned tuna
Snack (200 calories or less) • 1 ounce of pistachios and an apple • Yogurt parfait, if you didn’t eat it for breakfast • Whole-wheat pita with tomato sauce and low-fat mozzarella • Toast or crackers with peanut butter and sliced banana • Pear with almond butter • Cottage cheese with almonds and fruit • Smoothie with tofu or yoghurt, frozen berries, protein powder, ice
Dinner – protein and vegetables—no carbs. As this is when the body burns fat for fuel, however for moms who are breastfeeding and the baby isn’t sleeping through the night, you might still want carbs at night so you have more energy.
Work towards success
A little bit of work beforehand can help you keep your eating habits on track for the weeks ahead. Dicing up some vegetables and fruit to keep in the fridge, cooking and freezing healthy meals to be defrosted at a later date also help.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Moms that wait too long between meals, see a hormonal effect that can impact on milk supply. The body starts dipping into its reserves, decreasing its insulin production and affecting thyroid hormone levels. That lowers prolactin, which is the hormone that controls how much milk is made. When you’re feeling starving, you’re more likely to eat something you know you shouldn’t. Instead, spread out your calories over six pre-planned meals throughout the day.
Watch the calories — but not too all the time
It’s perfectly safe to moderately diet while breastfeeding, as long as your total calorific intake doesn’t drop below 1,800 calories per day and you keep eating a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Wait at least six to eight weeks before starting or restarting a serious exercise regimen. If you’re planning a particularly strenuous workout, eat a healthy carb about a half-hour before you exercise.
Weight loss for new moms occurs at different rates, so it’s important not to be discouraged if your weight loss happens more slowly than it does for all those celeb mamas. With a healthy diet plan, breastfeeding moms can typically lose about a pound a week.
The great thing is, altering your lifestyle by cutting down on calories or doing a lot more exercise all help. The main thing is to keep burning more calories than you’re consuming.