Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

Hello Moms,
As a 4-time mom, I understand the challenges of nursing and trying to get off that baby weight. There's a lot of pressure to get our bodies back fast after baby but sometimes when you're nursing it doesn't just "fall off."

This discussion is to offer a place of support for all moms - whether you're currently breastfeeding, have a newly weaned child or you just need to vent. Be inspired...

Best of health,

Valerie C. Merriweather NASM, ACE
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
National Body Challenge

www.fitwellsolutions.com

Edited June 10, 2009 at 11:37 pm

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23 replies. Join the discussion

Dear Valerie,
Hi my name is Nicole I am a mother of 2. Sarah almost 4 and Brandon 11 weeks old. I breastfed sarah for a year and My husband told me that in six months I dropped all my baby weight however, this time around I am breastfeeding my Brandon and I am still carying a spare tire around the tummy section and my theighs are still looking like cottage cheese. I started today on the slim fast plan I was wondering if this is the right diet for me to be on while I am breastfeedinfg my son. I am always busy with them and the house work and I never really have time to take care of myself. I am still wearing sweat pants and I truly want to get back into my jeans. am I doing the right thing? Iam 5'9" and I weigh 163 I want to get to 130 I topped off at 189 while pregnant with brandon. I could really use your help.
Nicole
Mother to Sarah and Brandon

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Hi Nicole,
You definitely have your hands full right now. Remember, every pg and postpartum period is different. After you had your daughter, it was just you and her. You probably had more time to exercise and eat better. Now with 2 kiddies, taking care of yourself gets a little more challenging. Here are some things you can do right now:

1) If you're still exclusively breastfeeding, I recommend discontinuing the Slim Fast plan. Slim Fast is a meal replacement drink. While you may lose weight fast, it'll be at your expense (e.g. muscle loss, water weight). Getting your nutrients from food is the better alternative right now.

2) Eat enough calories. This can range anywhere between 1800-2200 calories depending on how frequently you nurse. This number also accounts for physical activity. If you take in too few calories, you'll be jeopardizing your weight loss which can cause your metabolic rate to slow down.

3) Eat 3 balanced meals (watch those portions) and 2 small snacks. Drink plenty of water and make changes to your exercise program before you drop the calories.

Here's an interesting fact....according to Nancy Clark, MS, R.D., a woman burns the most fat during her 3rd month of pregnancy and throughout the breastfeeding period. So even though it seems like things are moving slowly, if you fuel your body consistently, you'll achieve your weight loss goals.

Be inspired and keep me posted on how things are going for you.

Best of health,

Valerie C. Merriweather
National Body Challenge Community Fitness Expert

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Dear Valerie,
Thank you for that infomation I had no idea that I was doing more harm to my body than actually helping it. I made a mistake I am 5'1" wishful thinking at 5'9" . Anyway, as far as my calorie intake should I even bother counting them right now. and what kind of excerise plan can I have now with sarah and Brandon. Sarah wants to excerise with me but brandon always requires more attention at this point. any suggestions? I will try not to think about my weight and let nature work it out I guess Ijust need some reassurance on this situation.
Nicole
Mother to Sarah and Brandon

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Hi Nicole,
It is helpful to track your calories just try not to obsess over it. You have several options: you can follow the menu on the National Body Challenge website, track your calories using a journal and calorie counting book or use an online journal such as www.mydailyplate.com. Keeping track of your calories keeps you honest and prevents you from stress eating which can sabotage your weight loss efforts.

As far as exercise goes, try fitting in short three 10 minute power activities everyday. This can range from a fast walk in the mall, performing jumping jacks and walking in place or dancing with the kids. Sarah will have a ball "hanging out" with mom and Brandon will get a lot out of the fun time as well. Even more important, you'll feel like you've done something which will increase your energy and help lower stress levels. Let me know how things go.

Best of health,

Valerie C. Merriweather
National Body Challenge Fitness Expert

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Hey Valerie,

I found one of the things I had a hard time with during the post-partum, breastfeeding stage was food. Some days I wanted to eat everything in sight; othertimes, I felt too busy, too frazzled, and just too tired to eat.
Can you offer some suggestions, or some "must haves" for the post-partum mom's kitchen?
I know oatmeal was a biggie. I remember early on, the lactation counselor telling me it helped for milk production, and is an all-around fabulous health food.

What kinds of things should a breast-feeding/post-partum mom have in their fridge to stay on track, and above all, healthy?

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actually i lost weight great with my daughter because of breastfeeding..i guess everyone is different.

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There are a lot reasons to eat or skip meals during breastfeeding. Between erratic schedules, constant feedings and plain old fatigue, it's hard to eat well and expect to lose weight. There were some strategies I used to help me lose weight consistently. My weight loss was a little slower (e.g about 1/4 lb a week) but I was comfortable knowing that I was providing optimal nourishment for my baby and avoiding calorie restriction-a sure-fire way to derail any weight loss efforts.

Here are my top-10 must-have fridge/pantry items for breastfeeding moms.

1. Seven minute steel-cut oatmeal with fruit (e.g strawberries) and walnuts.

2. Homemade trail mix. I mix 1 tablespoon of cashews, 1 tablespoon of raisins and 1 tablespoon of chocolate/carob chips. Get creative.

3. Non-fat yogurt with blueberries - very soothing and satisfying.

4. Smoothies made with non-fat organic yogurt, juice, and flaxseed.

5. Lean protein such as chicken, pork-loin, lean beef or fish. Eat 3-4 servings per day to help handle hunger pains throughout the day.

6. Organic eggs with DHA - great meal choice and snack for mom (also great for baby's brain development).

7. Vegetables such as green salad, cucumbers and tomatoes. Some vegetables are a little tricky; such as broccoli and cabbage. Sometimes the baby can get gassy so keep an eye out for baby's reaction.

8. Whole grain crackers, pita bread, and tortillas which are great with hummus, dips and cream cheese & veggies.

9. Fruit such as apples (with peanut butter), bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other seasonal fruit. Mix them up and have as mid-day snack.

10. Water!!! Did I say water? Water is the absolute best drink for the breastfeeding mom. It helps replenish fluids and helps maintain overall performance especially if you're exercising.

I think the most important thing to remember is that regardless of your weight loss goals, you have to eat well in order to nurse well and manage your weight. Patience and eating right helps the weight come off and more importantly, stay off.

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Hi Valerie

Thank you for your support on this topic. One of the reasons, besides the obvious, I have continued to breastfeed is I heard over & over that it will help you loose your baby weight faster. I have a 4 year old, Brogan, that I only breastfed for 2 weeks and now Devin who is 8 weeks old. I am a vegetarian, I try to count my calories as best as I can using a 2000 calorie diet (but I do slip sometimes) and I power walk for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. With the exception of the first 20 lbs I lost right away I haven't lost anything in 3 weeks. I'm getting VERY discouraged. Is there any tips you can give me to help boost the weight loss? And since I have heard so much that breastfeeding aids in weight loss what are the reasons that it can actual hinder it?

Thank you in advance!!

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Hi Mama7,
You raise a very valid dilemma faced by many breastfeeding moms - a plateau in weight loss. Throughout pregnancy, your body accumulates enough fat stores to provide adequate nourishment for your baby for as long as you breastfeed. It's not uncommon to lose the first 20-25 pounds rather quickly. That weight is primarily water, baby, fluids and hormonal adjustments. That's the initial excitement about breastfeeding. The uterus contracts more quickly and internally, things get "tighter" faster. However, after that initial weight loss, things tend to slow down and that's when we get frustrated.

If your baby is in a growth spurt, which occurs often during the first year, your body may slow down on the weight loss a bit in order to provide nourishment for your baby. The most important thing to remember is as long as your eating a well-balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis (cardio and strength training), you will continue to lose weight. Even though it may not look like it on the scale, the key factor is body composition. Your weight may not change much, but your clothes will feel better. That's a good sign. Eventually, your weight will adjust. I noticed that my body "adjusted' about every three months and there was a direct correlation with my child's growth and development as well as my weight.

So don't get discouraged. The weight WILL come off. Remember, you're a fat burning machine right now. Your body is utilizing fat more efficiently than ever during this breastfeeding season. Your body will typically drop another 5-10 pounds after you wean your baby. What you can do in the meantime is monitor your food intake through daily journals and avoid stress eating. If you're feeling hungry, sluggish or low energy, you may need to add a snack such as yogurt or another high protein choice.

I applaud you for sticking with breastfeeding. Your baby will reap the benefits and your body will thank you in the long run.

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Hi Valerie.

I am a mother of two (Claire-16 months) and Ashton (3 months) and am exclusively bf Ashton. I just started working out on a regular basis about 2 weeks ago and am not seeing any weight loss results. I am also using Weight Watchers online to track my food, and average about 1800-2000 calories per day. My workouts consist of M, W, F doing cardio (3 miles in 30 minutes) and then strength training for an hour. On Tuesday and Thursday I swim for an hour to an hour and a half depending on how much energy I have.
I am 5'1 and 148 pounds and would like to be down to 120-130 by October 3rd. (a wedding back home) I know this is somewhat un-realistic, but I need a goal to keep myself on track. My question is am I jeopardizing my milk supply by working out a lot and is there anything else I can do to lose the weight quicker? Thanks.

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Hi Lindsey55,
Wow, you're on a mission. Weddings will do that :-)
I'd give it some more time. One pattern I noticed during my breastfeeding journey was that my milk supply and/or baby's nutritional needs seemed to change about every 3 months. It was during that time, that my weight loss stalled a bit. I'm convinced that our bodies are "retooling" to provide the baby his/her needs and still fuel us to take care of them.

I wouldn't cut calories right now or increase the amount of days that you exercise. What I recommend is increasing the intensity of your sessions. For example, during your 3-mile run, run some high intensity bouts. Try 1 minute hard run and 2 minute recovery power walk. Do this 3-5 times during your run. When you swim, up the intensity by adding some weights to your swim or increasing your speed.

Try that for the next several weeks and I'm sure the weight will start coming off. For now though, I'd make the most changes in your exercise routines versus your eating. If at some point you hit another plateau, you may want to adjust your calories especially on your non-workout days. Eating a little less on those days may also help.

Let me know if you have anymore questions. Take good care.

Be inspired,

Valerie

Valerie C. Merriweather ACE, NASM
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
National Body Challenge

www.fitwellsolutions.com

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Hi there,

My son is 6 months old. I'm having trouble losing weight. This is my third child. With my first I gained 52 pounds and lost it all in two months. I gained 48 lbs with my second and only lost 14 lbs after she was born, I didn't lose the rest until until I went on Atkins four years later. Now with my third I started out about 15-20 over weight and gained 35 lbs. I lost 20 lbs initially and have been more careful with my diet and have added exercising (I've been running for about four weeks now) but still the weight won't budge. Are there some women that just hold on to the weight while breastfeeding?

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Hi 3gsmom,
I get that question a lot! Breastfeeding has a way of regulating our weight loss. For some women, it seems to drop off and for others there doesn't seem to be much of an effect. So to answer your question, let's look at the following realities:

1. Your life is a lot different now than it was after you had your first child. You had time and (more) energy to get the weight off.

2. Once baby #3 arrived, things are very different! Exercising may be more sporadic and your schedule is a little less predictable. It's not uncommon to have a harder time losing after subsequent babies, not because of breastfeeding but because of schedule changes.

3. Time, time, time......It's been awhile since your first child and to be honest your body just isn't as receptive to weight loss as it used to be. What you did in the past to lose weight may not be as effective now. You'll have to "rev" things up some more by adding regular strength training and interval training to see results.

4. Stress. With kids, stress is an inevitable reality. However, the older we get, we have to be careful to manage stress effectively otherwise we'll pack on the weight in the belly area.

Your body will "hold on" to weight to nourish your baby. The trick is to consume quality calories, change your routine and ride it out. If you hit a plateau, STICK WITH IT!!!! Your body will adjust. In my experience, at around the 6 month breastfeeding mark, your body "resets" and weight loss may increase due to your baby's dietary changes (e.g. cereal intake).

Be encouraged and keep us posted on your progress.

Be inspired,

Valerie Merriweather, ACE, NASM
Discovery Health Expert
National Body Challenge

www.fitwellsolutions.com

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Hi Valerie,
I started out ebf my son until he was 6 months, then we added some solids. I lost weight throughout this time with no problems. At 6 months until about 12 months, I still lost a few pounds while nursing him, but it was slower. Around 12 months, he nursed about 4 times a day and I hit a plateau in my weight loss. Now, at 20 months, I still have not lost the last 10 pounds. I have followed Weight Watchers in the beginning, and switched to counting calories because WW stopped working. Currently I am eating about 1400 calories a day and nursing twice a day. My exercise routine is as follows:

Sunday: kickboxing for 40 min and hand weights for 20 min

Monday: kickboxing for 30 min, hand weights for 20 min, and yoga for 10 min

Tuesday: treadmill for 20-30 min at 7% incline, approx 1 mile

Wednesday: step aerobics for 45 min followed by 15 min of hand weights

Thursday: pilates for 60 min

Friday and Saturday: treadmill for 20-30 min at 7% incline, approx 1 mile (sometimes these two days get skipped)

I am 5'2" and weigh 135. I would like to be 125, which is 5 lbs heavier than what I was before I was pregnant. What am I doing wrong and why can't I lose this last 10 lbs?

Thanks!

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Hi mleh1979,
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Wow, I'm impressed with your well-rounded workout schedule. Losing those last 10 pounds can be challenging but there are ways to speed things up a bit. I have some suggestions for you to consider:

1. Evaluate your current sleep schedule. Rest and recovery are critical for weight loss. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep will help your mood, reduce stress (which helps fight abdominal fat) and improve your overall fitness performance - which leads me to my next suggestion

2. Break your routine up so that you have some "recovery" built into your program. For example, instead of doing kick-boxing on back-back days, exchange a kick-boxing day with a moderate intensity walk and Pilates

3. Your current workout schedule, caloric intake, and nursing can have a slower effect on your weight loss efforts. On the harder workout days, you'll need to eat a little more to fuel your muscles. The result is that you'll be energized and have the energy to increase your intensity of your workouts

4. Plenty of studies point to the benefit of high intensity training (HIT) in fat loss even beyond the training session. HIT is all about forcing your body to work beyond its comfort zone (forget the "fat burning" button on the treadmill). In addition to your kick-boxing, walk on the treadmill using some drills. Try 1 minute of intense walking (incline up to 10) and then recover for 2 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Perform this routine 1-2 time per week. You should feel a noticeable different in your effort which is a good thing! Make sure you alternate some moderate intensity exercise on other days.

5. If you want to be a "fat burning machine," strength training will give you that added boost to your metabolic rate and help you change your body composition for the better. Add a total body strength training to your routine. Aim for 2-3 times a week using progressively heavier weights or different positions to increase your work effort.

Stay focused and don't get discouraged - you're so close to reaching your goal. Whatever you do, don't give up. With your determination and consistency, you will succeed. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

Be inspired,

Valerie C. Merriweather, ACE, NASM
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
National Body Challenge

www.fitwellsolutions.com

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I know everyone is different, but I've had 6 kids and have always been able to get back to my pre-prenancy weight within 6 months, with no special diets or exercise programs. I have always breastfed exclusively, atleast for the first 6 months or so, and think it is a major factor in my "baby" fat lose. Not to mention all the great benefits for your child...the list is too extensive to list here. I don't ever push my views on others, but for me breastfeeding has been a real joy and blessing.

Christy Bagasao
www.breastfeedingyourchild.com

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Hi Christy,
Thanks for your comments. It's always amazing to me how women can get their bodies back whether after one or six (whew!) children. I think you hit on something though. I can tell through your comments that you just enjoyed your kids postpartum. Some women I work with put a lot of pressure on themselves to lose the weight. It can be challenging too, especially when you see models like Heidi Klum just four weeks after delivery.

There were times when I obsessed over the scale but after baby #1 I realized that stressing over my weight was actually doing more harm than good. I hope that all moms regardless of whether they breastfeed or not will enjoy this season with our babies. I'm in the process of winter (forget spring) cleaning and I came across some baby items (e.g. bottles, bibs, teethers) and I got a bit nostalgic. Childhood speeds and I'm determined to enjoy every mile.

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Reading everything here has been encouraging to me because I have been a little bit depressed about the weight. After my first baby, I lost all of the weight in the first few months (plus more) I exercised and ate right anyway but the breastfeeding caused me to get extremely thin. Second baby, the same thing kind of happened only a lot slower...now, I am in my thirties (not in my mid to late twenties like with the first two babies) I am 14 weeks postpartum and while I did lose most of the weight, there are a few pounds hanging on this time. I can usually fit into all of my clothes by now but this time, they are still tight. I have began doing a lot more strength and interval training (i used to just do cardio when I was younger) I guess I am asking is it possible that now that I am older, this time, maybe I am holding onto the weight more for breastfeeding?
And I did have a theory that it seems when baby starts taking in solids (around 4 months) thats usually when more weight comes off (in the past thats about the time when I got down to an even lower weight that pre-pregnancy) this time I just feel that I have 2 or 3 pounds to go. But they wont budge. I know it doesn't seem like a lot to others, but to me, it makes a huge difference in how my clothes fit and how I feel about myself. So does that make sense? I also read somewhere that breastfeeding moms will lose most of the weight between 3 and 6 months....

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Hi jamiev,
Thanks for sharing. In my experience (personally and professionally) I find that a woman's body takes a little longer to get back to "normal" after each baby. The reasons can vary from lifestyle changes, hormones, stress and age. I completely understand about how your clothes fit even with 2-3 pounds to go. Even though you return to your pre-pregnancy size, your body still doesn't feel quite right. It's great that you've started strength and interval training. Adding these two activities to your workout will make a major difference in your body composition; translation - your clothes will fit a lot better.

What I do know is that breastfeeding moms lose the most weight in the first 6 months during breastfeeding. Once the baby gets on solids, weight loss plateaus a bit. This frustration can cause stress eating which explains why some women may gain weight even though they're trying to lose weight during this time.

You're so close to your goal; be encouraged, stay positive and keep up the great work. I'd love to hear how you're doing in the next couple of months.

Be Inspired,

Valerie Merriweather, ACE, NASM
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
National Body Challenge
www.fitwellsolutions.com

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Hi Valerie,

I am a first-time mom on a mission. I am breastfeeding my 3 1/2 month old daughter and plan to continue for another 7-9 months.

2 months before getting pregnant I entered and won my first figure competition. I look forward to competing again next year but have concerns about returning to my old form - especially my abs. I'm not sure that the high-protein diet (approx 100 grams/day) and high intensity workouts are appropriate right now.

I eat reasonably well and am doing moderate cardio and weights 2-3 days per week. Is it safe to adjust to HIIT and a higher protein diet at this time? Should I wait for my abdominal separation to repair completely before resuming serious ab work?

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