This post probably contains affiliate links, to items I am in love with, and I am confident you will too! For any health advice I give on nutrition and wieghtloss, make sure you check with your doctor, as I am not a health professional. I am just a mama with lots of health and fitness knowledge and experience.
Many mamas are asking themselves, “why can’t I lose weight while breastfeeding?” Struggling to lose weight while breastfeeding is very frustrating and confusing. The concept of burning more calories while breastfeeding doesn’t seem to apply at all. Luckily, as a certified nutrition coach and pre/post natal fitness specialist, I’ve got some answeres for you, that may help you move forward in your weight loss, and start understanding why you aren’t losing weight while breastfeeding.
Now, before we get into all the reasons, I want to make sure that you understand that I am assuming there are no underlying hormonal or thyroid issues going on. Autoimmune issues, genetic factors and other medications can also play a role, so if you have any of those things going on, there are going to be more factors involved in your weight loss. If you are taking medications, make sure to see if a side effect of your medication is weight gain, or difficulty losing weight. This side effect may not be listed, but could be common as well.
If after reading this post, you want to check out my app and program, I highly recommend giving it a try before giving up on your weight loss journey! My breastfeeding diet program isn’t too strict, nutrient dense, and a one-stop app for postpartum healing, exercises and meals. I also have just the cook book available, where you get all the recipes in the program, so you can create your own meal plan, BUT KNOW WHAT TO EAT!
My answers, to why you aren’t losing weight while breastfeeding are assuming that there are no underlying health issues and medications playing a role as well.
Does breastfeeding burn extra calories?
The short answer is yes. Breastfeeding burns around 300-500 extra calories a day, depending on your metabolism, size, and the extent of your breastfeeding. As you will read further on in the post, exclusive breastfeeding helps with weight loss, and most likely burns more calories than pumping. But that is technically a theory proven by studies on the movement of fat cells in exclusive breastfeeders. I personally found that I lost weight faster the more I breastfed. I was fortunate to only have to pump a handfull of times with my last, and I breastfed him for about 18 months. I believe this really helped me lose the weight faster, and ultimately burn more calories.
Many mamas over estimate what 300 – 500 calories look like. 300 – 500 calories can be as small as a few extra handfulls of nuts, a couple extra bags of chips, or a full extra meal, if you don’t want to lose weight. But, if you are wanting to lose weight, you don’t want to eat to compensate for these calories. Many mamas think that if they are eating in a caloric deficit, they will lose their milk, but that is the whole reason you have fat stored during pregnancy – so let your body do the work! Fat is meant to be used as extra fuel, so let your body do just that!
Reasons you aren’t losing weight while breastfeeding:
Pregnancy, lactation and birth cause a rise and fall of many hormones and chemicals in the body. If this process is out of wack to begin with, let’s say before you even get pregnant, than it could still be out of wack while breastfeeding.
Some factors that can cause your hormones to not function properly after birth include:
- lack of nutrients
- nutrient deficiencies existing before breastfeeding
- low iron levels
- extreme lack of sleep (1-2 hour spurts can cause issues)
- overeating meals (binges)
These are just a few of the causes that can push your hormones out of balance. For example, if extra weight gain and fat cells are raising your estrogen levels, then weight loss will be more difficult. Fat cells feed estrogen, and in turn, estrogen signals to store more fat. Excess fat cells also interfere with lactation and weight loss postpartum, which is partly due to the major imbalance of estrogen created by excess fat cells. “Obese or overweight women are less likely to initiate breast-feeding and lactate for shorter durations than normal BMI women.58–62 A study in the early postpartum period documented diminished prolactin response to suckling among obese women,63 suggesting that excess adiposity interferes with hormonal establishment of lactation. ” (source).
Estrogen is usually the hormone that makes weight loss while breastfeeding difficult. If there are extra fat cells, then most of time, estrogen levels are raised, making weight loss hard, even when breastfeeding.
Nutrient deificiencies is another factor that can be stalling your weight loss as a breastfeeding mama. If your body believes that it is starving, then it will signal hunger and store resources (fat). Breastfeeding mamas need more nutrients than non-breastfeeding mamas. This means that continuing your prenatal vitmain, taking a postpartum nutritional supplement, or filling your plate with lots of colorful and nutrient-dense foods. If you can do some testing with your doctor, or be more mindful of your diet to see if your body can replenish the nutrient stores it is missing.
Low Milk Supply:
It has been linked that those mamas with a low milk supply, also have a hard time losing weight. In astudy on maternal metabolism and lactation, experts believe that lactation plays an important role in resetting the metabolism after pregnancy. Lactation also palys an important role in fat mobilization, so if a mother is having trouble with lactation, it is also likely they are having trouble with fat loss. You can also work hard to increase your milk supply by using supply boosters like this protein powder. It is amazing for both postpartum nourishment, boosting milk supply and curbing sugar cravings.
Exclusive Pumping or Pumping Majority Of The Time:
If you are an exclusive pumper, or pumping more than nursing, there can be issues with fat loss. Greater metabolic recovery and fat mobilization is associated with exclusive breastfeeding. Because the skin-to-skin contact and pheromones are important to lactation, bonding and healing postpartum, this process is also helpful in regaining strength, metabolism and weight loss. You can attempt to combat this by looking at videos of your baby while pumping at work, wearing your baby more at home, and adding in some feedings during the night if possible. This can help kick your metabolism back into gear. If breastfeeding your baby doesn’t work at all, be paitent. You will be able to lose the weight, and give yourself some grace with a HUGE hug for working so hard to pump all that milk.
Eating Too Much:
Many mamas are very surprised at how much they are eating when I have them track their food for a few days. Breastfeeding mamas experience fatigue and hunger, which can cause over eating. Add in all the activities and mental fatigue, it is hard to pay attention to everything we are actually eating. You may think you are eating “healthy,” and maybe you are, but maybe you are eating 4,000 calories a day. This is most-likely too much unless you are 6ft tall, all muscle and an extreme athlete. I had one mama who was eating on average 3-4 thousand calories a day, and she didn’t know it. She was able to lose weight much faster after solving that problem.
With a new baby, there is a lot sitting and holding, and resting. This means you aren’t up and moving as much as maybe during pregnancy. Your body is burning calories for breastfeeding, but often times many women lose muscle mass in the first month postpartum, which also reduces your metabolism. This is why my pregnancy program is focused on more weight training than cardio. I want pregnant mamas to have as much muscle mass going into postpartum as possible, to keep that metabolism going. You can also follow my postpartum program that has pilates and strengthening work you can do right after birth. Also follow me on Instagram, and you will get lots of free workouts, recipes and tips!
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Beginner, postpartum balance work! You can do a lot for your core by just doing some balance work. I should be doing these more often, so do them with me! ➡️ Balance work gently engages your core ➡️ Balance work also engages small muscles surrounding your hips and glutes ➡️ Balance work strengthens your connection between your mind and muscles ➡️ HERE’S WHAT TO DO: ● The moves where I hold one leg up, hold for about 15 seconds ● The moves where there are reps, do about 15 reps each side So simple to do, yet so effective for healing and strengthening Postpartum! #postpartumfitness #postpartumweightloss #postpartumworkout #postpartumhealing #postpartumlife …………………………………. #postpartumnutrition #postpartumbody #postnatalfitness #postnatalhealing #postpartimdiet #4thtrimester #4thtrimesterbodies #bodyafterbaby #losingthebabyweight #losethebabyweight #newmommylife
I know weight loss while breastfeeding can be challenging, and many mamas really do struggle with navigating the right diet and weight loss program. I have a free, 10-day reset to help you jump start your weight loss, which can really help you get on track! I also have my full, in-depth program, as well as many resources here on this blog to help you answer the question,
“Why on earth am I not losing weight while breastfeeding?!”
If you need help losing the baby weight and keeping up your milk supply, I have a very popular program, The Postpartum Cure, which comes in an app you can download.