Breastfeeding may help you lose weight post-pregnancy, but the amount of weight you’ll lose varies for everyone.
Breastfeeding typically burns 500 to 700 calories per day. To lose weight safely while breastfeeding, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for how many calories you need to consume daily. You also will need to get clearance from your doctor before resuming exercise after childbirth.
Read on to learn more about postpartum weight loss while breastfeeding.
A number of factors will affect how quickly you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, including:
- your metabolism
- your diet
- how often you exercise
- how much weight you gained during pregnancy
Depending on how much weight you gained during pregnancy, it may take six to nine months, or up to a year or longer to lose the weight you gained. Some women never lose all of it.
It’s common to lose around 13 pounds shortly following delivery. This quick weight loss is from the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. This amount could vary depending on the size of your baby or whether you retained a lot of fluid during pregnancy.
Following this initial weight loss, you’ll need to take in fewer calories than you burn off to lose more weight. But for health and safety reasons, you’ll want to lose weight gradually and consume at least 1,800 calories each day while breastfeeding. This will keep your milk supply high and give you enough energy.
You can safely aim to lose around one to two pounds per week. You may find you’re back at your prepregnancy weight after breastfeeding for six months. For some women, it may take a year or two.
It may take longer to lose weight if you’ve been pregnant before or if you gained more than the 30 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
Based on daily calorie intake recommendations for women aged 19 to 50, based on your lifestyle, you may need to consume the following number of calories per day while breastfeeding:
To maintain your current weight while breastfeeding, and keep up your milk production and energy levels, you’ll need to consume an additional 450 to 500 calories per day.
- sedentary lifestyle: 2,250 to 2,500 calories per day
- moderately active lifestyle: 2,450 to 2,700 calories per day
- active lifestyle: 2,650 to 2,900 calories per day
Once you’ve identified the total amount of calories you should be eating daily, try to make sure the majority of your calories are coming from nutrient-rich foods. These include:
- whole grains
- lean protein
If you’re trying to lose weight, avoid empty-calorie foods like:
- white bread
- baked goods
- other junk or fast food
You may also need to take a multivitamin or you may continue taking your prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding. Ask your doctor which supplements they recommend.
Is it safe to restrict calories while breastfeeding?
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you’re consuming at least 1,800 calories per day while breastfeeding. You can supplement your diet with exercise once you’re cleared by your doctor. For most women, this is usually around six weeks after delivery, though it may be longer if you had a cesarean delivery, or complications during or after delivery.
It’s important to maintain a healthy diet while breastfeeding so that you can produce nutritious milk for your baby. That means cutting calories may not always be a safe option.
However, there are several things you can do to safely support weight loss while breastfeeding.
1. Go lower-carb
Limiting the amount of carbohydrates you consume may help you lose pregnancy weight faster. But be sure you’re supplementing with plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables. Aim to still eat a minimum of 1,800 calories per day, and always talk to your doctor before starting any new diet postpartum.
2. Exercise safely
Once your doctor has cleared you to exercise, gradually ease back into working out. Focus on postpartum-safe workouts like yoga and going on walks with your baby.
You can start by working out 20 to 30 minutes per day. Work up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Try to breastfeed your baby before working out to avoid engorgement.
3. Stay hydrated
When you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to stay hydrated. Try to drink 12 cups (96 fluid ounces) of water each day.
Drinking water and clear fluids will help your body flush out any water weight, too. And avoid sugary beverages if you’re trying to lose weight, as these are loaded with empty calories.
4. Don’t skip meals
Don’t skip meals while breastfeeding, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Skipping meals can slow down your metabolism and cause your energy to drop, which can make it more difficult to be active and care for your baby.
Plus, eating too few calories per day may cause your weight loss to plateau or stop.
If you don’t have a lot of time to eat, try to eat smaller snacks throughout the day. A good goal is to have a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, after feeding your baby to replenish calories lost.
5. Eat more frequently
In addition to not skipping meals, eating frequently can also help support your weight loss goals. More frequent meals can help you have more energy throughout the day.
Aim for three meals and two snacks per day. Though if you’re constantly hungry while breastfeeding, you may need to add more small, healthy snacks throughout the day.
6. Rest when you can
It can be difficult to find time to rest when you have a new baby. But try to get as much sleep as you can. It can help your body recover faster and you may lose weight faster.
Sleep is also important once you return to exercising. That’s because your muscles need to rest and recover after your workouts.
If your baby is feeding throughout the night, try to take short naps during the day when your baby sleeps.
See your doctor if you’re concerned about losing weight postpartum. They can assess your diet and lifestyle, and offer healthy suggestions for losing weight.
For example, if you’re having trouble losing weight, it may be safe to cut back on the number of calories you’re eating six months postpartum when your baby starts solids.
If you’re unhappy with your body image, your doctor may be able to recommend a counselor, therapist, or weight loss specialist who works with postpartum moms.
Let your doctor know if you’re concerned that you’re losing weight too quickly while breastfeeding (more than one to two pounds per week.) You may need to supplement your diet with additional meals or snacks throughout the day. This may also help keep up your milk supply.
Remember that it took nine months to gain the weight during pregnancy, so be kind to your body as you start your weight loss journey. Some women find it takes six to nine months to get back to their prepregnancy weight. For others, it can take one to two years.
Try not to compare yourself to others. Ease back into exercising gradually and focus on eating a healthy diet without restricting too many calories while breastfeeding.