Breastfeeding has been said to help moms lose the weight they gained during pregnancy faster. But is this a fact or just a myth?
How many calories does breastfeeding burn?
Research shows that exclusively breastfeeding mothers tend to burn on average 500 additional calories daily – the equivalent of cutting out a small meal, large snack, or performing 45–60 minutes of medium-intensity physical exercise. Breastfeeding women are also 6% more likely to return to or dip below their pre-pregnancy weight than non-exclusively breastfeeding women. So breastfeeding burns calories and burning calories = losing weight right? Well, not really. Technically, you do burn calories when you breastfeed: 300 to 500 per day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose weight – it’s more complex than that. Calorie counts don’t account for the diversity of body types among women. Several factors determine whether you can return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
These factors are:
- Eating habits
- Physical activity
- Hormone changes
- Amount of weight gained during pregnancy
- Number of previous pregnancies
Registered dietitian Julie Perks says: “Breastfeeding has a host of many benefits one of which that is often mentioned is weight loss. Breastfeeding naturally causes the body to use additional energy to create the milk for the baby which will come from the mom’s diet and occasionally from stores within the body which can therefore cause weight loss due to an energy deficit. When a mom is not eating well and choosing high-energy foods that cause her to exceed her personal daily energy requirements she will be incapable of losing weight.” Mayo Clinic says that getting to your pre-pregnancy weight can take between six to nine months. “After an immediate postpartum weight loss of about 6.8 kilograms, weight loss tends to happen gradually – at about 0.45 to 0.9 kilogram a month for the first six months after childbirth and more slowly after that point. It often takes six to nine months to lose weight gained during pregnancy. New moms are encouraged to eat certain types of foods, which may assist in weight loss. Staying hydrated and doing some form of exercise can also be helpful.
Foods you should eat
- Lean protein
- Whole grains
Foods you should avoid
- Unhealthy carbohydrates
- Junk food
Breastfeeding alone usually cannot cause weight loss for some mothers. However, breastfeeding combined with other factors such as watching what you eat, getting enough sleep, low levels of stress, doing some physical activity, and knowing your body type can cause some women to lose weight. Unfortunately, weight loss is not guaranteed when not combined with a healthy diet of the right foods, but weight loss is possible during breastfeeding when mom chooses to eat well and have sufficient energy for herself and to nurse her infant. Breastfeeding also assists with the contracting of the uterus which also causes you to look like you have lost weight. Breastfeeding will never in itself cause weight gain. Any mom needing assistance for their breastfeeding journey should always reach out as weight loss is not the most important benefit or aim. It really does take a village to raise a child and women should never feel alone on their journey in any aspect of raising a child. If new moms are ever concerned about weight loss and want to continue to successfully breastfeed and need additional assistance they are encouraged to seek a dietitian in their area to assist them.