How to lose weight while breastfeeding? Don’t mess with your health

How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding

You probably feel a bit off after 9 months of pregnancy which naturally make you gain weight, and as all other women you probably wondering how you get rid of that weight again right?

If you are breastfeeding which you should do if you are able to because of the benefits of breastfeeding, you need to know the healthy way how to lose weight while breastfeeding. Don’t jump on some very stupid diet that compromise the quality and quantity of the breast milk that should be available for your newborn baby.

Losing weight while breastfeeding is not that difficult as it might seem because when you breastfeed the normal term is that you will burn approx. 200-500 calories per day, which is one of the benefits if you consider breastfeeding vs. bottle for your baby. Check out about postpartum changes from Wikipedia:

After birth, the fat stores created during pregnancy are primed to be metabolized through lactation. Several investigators have explored the relation between duration of lactation and postpartum weight change, and found a variety of outcomes. Overall, it has been observed that prolonged exclusivity of breastfeeding is associated with increased weight loss when controlling for gestational weight gain and postpartum caloric intake and expenditure. Dietary intake and energy expenditure affect how much weight women lose with lactation. When nutrition is readily available, women compensate for increased energy demands by increasing intake and decreasing energy expenditure, rather than mobilizing fat stores. Fat mobilization appears to increase after the first 3 months postpartum, reflecting changes in the hormonal effects of lactation on maternal appetite as frequency of infant feeds decreases. Some findings suggest that formula-feeding mothers during the first two months postpartum consume 600 to 800 fewer calories than breast-feeding mothers and lost substantially more weight. From 3 to 6 months post-partum, however, weight loss among breast-feeding women increased substantially. These results suggest that in the early postpartum period, well-nourished women in developed nations tend to increase energy intake and/or decrease physical activity to meet the energy demands of lactation, whereas beyond 3 months, lactating women are more likely to mobilize fat stores. Longitudinal studies using skinfold thickness and MRI scanning of adipose tissue during pregnancy and lactation consistently show fat accumulation in the thigh and buttocks regions during pregnancy, with mobilization from these areas postpartum. These studies have indicated that lactation is associated with reduction in subcutaneous fat levels and overall body weight.

Before you start losing weight you need to check out these tips how, when and what you do to lose weight during your breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Losing Weight Tips

What you especially need to know when you want to transform your body back to normal again, is that you need to wait a few months before starting “dieting”. The reason for this is that your body need time to establish a healthy milk supply.

More: Does breastfeeding cause sagging breast

Your Calorie Intake and Breastfeeding

When you breastfed your child you shouldn’t consume less than 1500-1800 calories per day and this is lowest value where you are putting the milk production at risk. Read this from

Studies have shown that most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day. Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories per day (most women should stay at the high end of this range) may put your milk supply at risk, as may a sudden drop in caloric intake.

A mother’s “baseline” need for calories (not including lactation) depends upon her activity level, weight and nutritional status. A mother who is less active, has more fat stores, and/or eats foods higher in nutritional value may need fewer calories than a mom who is more active, has fewer fat stores, and/or eats more processed foods. This link from the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine has more information (including a handy calculator) on determining your individual caloric needs.

An exclusively breastfeeding mother, on average, needs to take in 300-500 calories per day above what was needed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight. Since the recommended added calories during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is 300 calories/day, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will typically need either the same amount of calories she was getting at the end of pregnancy, or up to 200 additional calories per day. That’s the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day.

This are the calories you need but counting calories is really not what you want to do when you breastfeed, instead you should listen to your body and the reaction on your child because risking the health of both of you to lose weight is a very bad idea.

Keep Your Weight Loss Speed Down

You need to keep your weight loss down so it stays healthy so it doesn’t affect the milk supply. You can read this from the study  McCrory MA. Does dieting during lactation put infant growth at risk? Nutr Rev 2001 Jan;59(1 Pt 1):18-21.

For some women, postpartum retention of weight gained during pregnancy may contribute to obesity. A recent 10-week randomized intervention showed that infants of initially overweight, lactating mothers who exercised and dieted to lose an average of 0.5 kg/week grew normally. The findings of this study support the Institute of Medicine guidelines for weight loss in overweight women who are exclusively breast-feeding their child.

If you lose weight to fast it can reduce your milk supply and your own health will also suffer.

From this study Lovelady CA, et al. Weight change during lactation does not alter the concentrations of chlorinated organic contaminants in breast milk of women with low exposure. J Hum Lact 1999 Dec;15(4):307-15.

The purpose of this longitudinal study was to evaluate whether a loss of body fat during lactation between 4 and 20 wk postpartum increases the concentration of environmental contaminants in breast milk. We examined this relationship in two different cohorts of exclusively breastfeeding women: (1) California women with low exposure to contaminants (n = 10 whose weight was stable [mean change, 0.0 +/- 0.2 kg] and n = 11 who lost weight [mean loss, -4.1 +/- 0.4 kg]) and (2) Hispanic women (n = 30) who had recently immigrated to North Carolina, primarily from Mexico, and were presumed to have a higher prior exposure to contaminants. Breast milk samples were analyzed for hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and DDT and its related products. There was no significant relationship between change in body composition and change in milk contaminant concentrations in either California or North Carolina women. Concentrations of HCB were similar between the California and North Carolina women, but those of DDT and related products were higher in the North Carolina subjects. Results suggest that moderate weight loss in lactating women with low exposure to environmental contaminants does not increase contaminant concentration in breast milk.

More: How many calories does breastfeeding burn

So How do You Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

If you stay away from the mentioned things and keep your “dieting” healthy, you will automatically boost your metabolism just like if you weren’t breastfeeding or had a child. Remember to get the necessary minerals, vitamins and proteins and start eating throughout the day instead of staying to 2-3 meals a day as many people do.

You need to start a moderate exercise routine but remember to give it time and don’t pace things. After all, you just gave birth to a child, so your baby need to find itself so start with moderate exercising but besides this there is no really health problems during breastfeeding as you can see from this study Dewey KG, Lovelady CA, Nommsen-Rivers LA, McCrory MA, Lönnerdal B. N Engl J Med. 1994 Feb 17;330(7):449-53. A randomized study of the effects of aerobic exercise by lactating women on breast-milk volume and composition.


The potential risks and benefits of regular exercise during lactation have not been adequately evaluated. We investigated whether regular aerobic exercise had any effects on the volume or composition of breast milk.


Six to eight weeks post partum, 33 sedentary women whose infants were being exclusively breast-fed were randomly assigned to an exercise group (18 women) or a control group (15 women). The exercise program consisted of supervised aerobic exercise (at a level of 60 to 70 percent of the heart-rate reserve) for 45 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for 12 weeks. Energy expenditure, dietary intake, body composition, and the volume and composition of breast milk were assessed at 6 to 8, 12 to 14, and 18 to 20 weeks post partum. Maximal oxygen uptake and the plasma prolactin response to nursing were assessed at 6 to 8 and 18 to 20 weeks.


The women in the exercise group expended about 400 kcal per day during the exercise sessions but compensated for this energy expenditure with a higher energy intake than that recorded by the control women (mean [+/- SD], intake, 2497 +/- 436 vs. 2168 +/- 328 kcal per day at 18 to 20 weeks; P < 0.05). Maximal oxygen uptake increased by 25 percent in the exercising women but by only 5 percent in the control women (P < 0.001). There were no significant differences between the two groups in maternal body weight or fat loss, the volume or composition of the breast milk, the infant weight gain, or maternal prolactin levels during the 12-week study.


In this study, aerobic exercise performed four or five times per week beginning six to eight weeks post partum had no adverse effect on lactation and significantly improved the cardiovascular fitness of the mothers.