How to lose weight while breastfeeding without losing milk supply

{For complete details on how I lose weight after each pregnancy, see my ebook, Fit, Lean, Strong: The Diet}

How to lose weight while breastfeeding without losing milk supply

Can you lose weight while breastfeeding? Absolutely. Can you lose weight while breastfeeding without losing milk supply? Absolutely.

I’ve said this many times, while I’m not an RD or other professional, I feel like an “expert” on the breastfeeding, weight loss issue since I’ve done it four times now, three times on a vegan diet, with great success.

Here’s the scoop.

You can lose weight while breastfeeding.

Some women find it easy (yes, we’re all jealous)–the weight just “slips off,” with very little attention paid to diet or exercise. This is mainly to due with the fact that breastfeeding can burn anywhere from 300-700 calories a day. Number depends on weight and age of baby, and whether or not they are exclusively breast fed or not. Breast milk ranges from approximately 20-25 or so calories an ounce, do the math.

If your baby is consuming 30 ounces a day, that’s more or less 600 calories. A significant amount for doing nothing but sitting and letting your wee one latch on. Nice, but….there is a caveat. A lot of women, however, find it very difficult to lose weight. Part of this is that yes, you’re burning a boat load of calories just breastfeeding but your appetite is kicked into FULL gear. It would be nice if you could just eat like a normal person. But you’re not a normal person. You’re a lactating mama and all sorts of complex and intricate biological processes are at work making sure that you *eat.* Not only that, but that you want to eat everything in sight. Cravings are worse than when you were pregnant. Okay, not necessarily for ALL women, but nature’s put things into place so that we are motivated to eat to insure a healthy milk supply for growing babes.

Other than the appetite issue, there are a few other factors here. One that I see is a huge issue is the fact that once you have a baby and possibly multiple children to care for, it becomes a challenge to prepare healthy foods and make time to exercise (which is less important in terms of weight loss, but that’s for another day). Stress, interrupted and less than ideal sleep, piles of laundry and dishes (that just keep piling up, mind you), it all adds up and before you know it, you’re eating cold cereal, frozen burritos, or fast food for every meal, because you “just don’t have time.” Yes, I know, I’ve been there.

Is it safe?

So is it dangerous to lose weight while breastfeeding? You might get that feeling after reading some of what’s out there–don’t lose too much weight, too quickly! Fat stores carry toxins (which they do…more on this later), so don’t lose weight, etc. So you may be worried about losing weight, even considering healthy not to lose the weight until after you have the baby. I think these worries/fears are rather unfounded.

I lost about a pound a week.

Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. This is a calorie deficit of about 250-750 calories a day, the average being about 500 calories a day I’m burning above my consumption. Having tracked my nutrient intake, including calories in various stages of my weight loss, I was always above 2,000 calories a day. My range was somewhere between 2,000-2,500 calories a day, which is a lot of food, and I still lost weight. 2,000 calories coming from mostly whole plant foods is more than enough nutrients to support me and ensure a healthy milk supply. For example, in this range, my average protein intake was 70-90 grams (most sources say aim for 65, but I’m active, so I get a bit more calories to spend), 80+ grams of fiber (yes, I said fiber, it’s in the plants I tell ya), and so on.

Reputable sources state that on a diet, a breastfeeding mom should be in the 1500-1800 calorie range. I can’t imagine getting only 1500 calories a day nursing (I’d be scratching my walls with hunger). There is nothing drastic with this approach, and creating a consistent calorie deficit of 250-500 below your calorie needs, will NOT adversely affect your milk supply. You need a base amount of nutrients from real food and just as important, if not more so, is to drink PLENTY of water (I don’t count, I just drink all day long).

Trust your body, it’s an amazing thing!


Comments


  1. Celina Koonce
    on June 13, 2016 at 7:55 am said:

    Plant based breastfeeder! Thank you for writing. Awesome blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Melissa
    on May 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm said:

    I love that I found this post in your “archives” since it wasn’t applicable to me at all back in August 2011 when I first read it, but it helped a lot now. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cravings while nursing? Heck yes! (I thought it was just in my head that I’m ravenous all. the. time.) However, I am totally and utterly at a loss as to how to eat healthy again right now while nursing, since baby’s digestive system doesn’t appear to tolerate veggies in my diet… like AT ALL! The exception to this is that I have been successfully adding spinach to my shakes and baby has not had any adverse gas (i.e. oh the drama and tears!) as a result. But other than potatoes and carrots (hello starches!), veggies are pretty much a disaster. (Example: I made up a stir fry with the Costco mix of green beans, carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts, broccoli… and it was an AWFUL 24-hours following of crying and tummy rumbles from baby, and that was with me abstaining from all but two small pieces of broccoli.) I am guessing I just have to be patient and wait for baby’s little body to mature so I can get back to all my favorite non-meat things — chocolate, veggies, beans, chocolate… — but was curious as to what you did or how you navigated this territory with your little ones. (Did I mention I miss chocolate?!)
    BTW – for now, my solution to being “healthier” while unable to really eat great again is to get active again by going back to running and the gym, doing cardio for my health and light weights to keep my back and arms up with his growth. And it helps me justify eating cookies when up for 3:00am feedings. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Katrina
    on December 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm said:

    Hi Janae,
    Just found your blog via Gena from Choosing Raw. I like what I see! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a totally bizarre question from left field but I thought I might see what your opinion is. I’m expecting my third baby next spring and I always hated my “nursing” chair, i.e. the chair in the baby’s room that you spend a lot of time nursing in. I’m tall like you (5’9″) and am shopping around for a new chair. I happened to see an ad on the side of your page for a chair that I’m considering! Anyway, no stores near me sell the brand so if I want to try it out, I’d have to drive a couple hours at least (which I may do for a comfy chair!). Just curious what you like. I am someone who really needs a well-fitting chair (I’ve never been able to just meander around the house with baby latched on and maybe you have been and have no idea what I’m talking about!). Any insight?? Thanks so much and already pinned two of your recipes!!

  4. Anna Crouch
    on August 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm said:

    Hi! I found your blog by googling something like "non dairy protein powders" lol. I read lots of blogs and have been browsing yours–I love it!You're officially added to my Google Reader!!

  5. Atwood-Family of FIVE
    on August 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm said:

    Hope you keep up the posts! I have a 7 week old but she was in the NICU since her birth. She's been home now for 2 days and she has taken to BFing very well and is exclusive at this point. I plan to keep that up as i did w/ my other 2 for a year and beyond if we both want. I have about 10 pesky pounds I'd like to loose but I know it's gonna be tough. Can't wait to hear what motivation and tricks you can give me!

  6. Delight
    on August 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm said:

    Way to go! I am looking forward to reading your future posts about nursing and weight loss. I am also hoping that you will post some more information about what you eat in a typical day to give you that much protein. Currently I am packing on the pounds – and pregnant with twins, ๐Ÿ™‚ but I hope to follow your example in a few months! Thanks for blogging!

  7. Becca
    on August 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm said:

    Yes, this is helpful indeed! So easy to get confused. Of course my child is more important than weight loss, but it`s good to know there are healthy ways to do it. Wish you a nice and succesful day! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!