Having a baby is one of the most joyous moments in a new mother’s life, but it can also be a time when moms start dwelling on losing weight while breastfeeding without affecting your milk supply. I get it, I’ve been there. I gained too much weight during pregnancy because I thought it would just melt off when I started breastfeeding my son.
Smelling that sweet newborn and providing the best nourishment for your baby through breastfeeding are some of the happiest times. But, the postpartum phase as a new mama can also be a time of stress and anxiety as you learn your newborn’s feeding cues and other important signs. All babies want to be cuddled and cared for.
This also means as a new mama, you need to be in your best physical, emotional, and mental state to be able to best care for and nourish your new baby, so you can feel confident in your body! The proper nourishment in the postpartum period is so important- from positive affirmations to eating a healthy diet.
As your body heals in this postpartum period, fueling your body with the best nutrients is essential for both your physical and emotional states. With all that said, in this post, we are discussing how to lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting milk supply so that you can be your best self.
Can I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding & Not Affect My Milk Supply?
The simple answer is, YES! You can lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting your milk supply. Many moms are fortunate and lose the baby weight quickly while breastfeeding, without even trying.
While other moms, struggle to lose weight unless they really track and monitor what they’re eating. This outcome greatly depends on many factors such as your age, pre-pregnancy weight, how often you’re breastfeeding, exercise, etc.
The easiest way to lose weight while breastfeeding is to follow a plan that consists of healthy foods that will get you feeling great, and also provide you with the nutrition your body needs and can process. If this is something you are interested in, I have actually developed a program to help breastfeeding moms lose weight.
I decided to start the L.E.A.N. Mamas program because I wanted to share with other moms exactly what I did to lose over 50 pounds after having my son to get BELOW my pre-pregnancy weight. I also breastfed him until he was just over three years old and never saw a dip in my milk supply when trying to lose weight.
Through L.E.A.N. Mamas some of the things you get include:
- Learning how to calculate the calories you need (at least for starters, you don’t have to track calories forever)
- Healthy shopping lists guide
- Sample 21-day meal plan
- Bonuses that will help feed your kids healthy meals too!
As a mom, Lactation Counselor, and Health Coach, I have experienced both sides of breastfeeding while trying to lose the baby weight. It wasn’t always easy, it required motivation and discipline, as well as the knowledge to know how much to be eating to maintain milk supply and not feel hungry all the time.
I started sharing this way of healthy eating and living with other moms and it has worked for them too. You can see more testimonials and information about the program by clicking here.
Tips For Losing Weight While Breastfeeding Without Affecting Milk Supply
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What does a “good diet” look like for breastfeeding mothers? Here’s my secret: keep it simple with a variety of whole, real foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins. A breastfeeding diet does not need to be complicated!
Fill your plate with wholesome foods, the less processed the better. You and your family can generally enjoy the same foods too, so there’s no need to cook something special for yourself.
If you have an extremely fussy baby, you may consider looking at potential food intolerances that may be contributing to these bouts of fussiness. It could be something that is in your milk, transferring to your baby. But, in general, you don’t need to exclude anything from your diet. In fact, babies actually prefer flavored milk and it exposes them to many new tastes and flavors through your breast milk.
Tip #1 – Eat Lactogenic Foods
- Whole Grains and Flours: organic oats, barley, buckwheat, black rice, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur
- Spices, Herbs, and Yeasts: anise, basil, fennel seed, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, dill, cumin, garlic, brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast
- Fruits and Vegetables: apricots, figs, dates, coconut, papayas, asparagus, avocados, kale, spinach, moringa, beets, carrots, fennel, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, dried seaweed
- Eggs and Dairy: eggs, full-fat Greek yogurt (low or no sugar), whole milk, butter, and cream
- Beans and Pulses: chickpeas, lentils, peas
- Fats and Sweeteners: extra-virgin coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, molasses, coconut sugar, dates
- Protein: organically raised or wild-caught fish and meat
Keep in mind no food will fix an underlying issue of low milk supply. These foods are considered milk boosters and help you live a healthier life in general because of their nutrient-dense nature. When you start focusing on the quality of foods in your diet, you’ll see a drastic increase in your energy, your satisfaction with food, and reduced hunger cravings. You can let your whole family enjoy them too!
Inside my L.E.A.N. Mamas program, you’ll find shopping lists with many of these foods to help you get a jumpstart on your weight loss goals while maintaining your milk supply.
Many of the lactogenic commercial food products do contain some of these ingredients. You can also make your own which would be far healthier. Either way, enjoy the food and eat the sweets in moderation. Some newborns don’t tolerate processed (white) sugar well.
Tip #2 – Get Nourishment Outside of Food
Although eating healthy is a huge part of optimal self-nourishment in the postpartum period, other ways to take care of yourself during this time include:
- Being gentle on yourself and your baby.
- Surrounding yourself with a positive support system.
- Taking a warm bath.
- Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Preparing meals and snacks ahead of time for easy access to healthy foods.
- Continuing to take postnatal vitamins.
- Getting some sunshine each day for Vitamin D.
- Resting your eyes often.
- Including gentle movement in your routine (yoga, swimming, walking).
Tip #3 – Drink Plenty of Water
Some moms are super thirsty while breastfeeding and other moms struggle to drink enough water. It is really important that you’re drinking water while breastfeeding to help your body flush out toxins, repair cells, and heal after birth. Your breast milk is also made predominantly of water, so this is another reason why drinking enough water is important.
- Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
- Put a bottle or cup next to your nursing station and always have water available while you’re nursing.
- Try not to drink it while you’re eating as much. Instead drink more water outside of meals and snacks since those times can interfere with digestive juices and flow.
- Sometimes we think we are hungry, but we are actually thirsty. You can try drinking a glass of water before eating if you don’t think you should be hungry yet.
Tip #4 – Add Electrolytes
Electrolytes are also important when you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding. Your body is using a lot of energy and calories to make milk, so it’s important you’re giving it nutrients to replenish. If you’re looking for a natural solution to electrolytes, drink natural unsweetened coconut water or add lemon and Himalayan salt to your water.
Try to avoid sports drinks like Body Armor and Gatorade as those contain a lot of unnecessary sugar and empty calories that can keep you holding on to weight. If you want to buy electrolyte drinks or tablets, opt for ones with less processed sugar like Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder.
Tip #5 – Begin Exercising Lightly
Once you’re cleared by your doctor to begin exercising, it will be a good idea to start slow. Regaining muscle you may have lost during pregnancy and in recovery will help you burn more calories in the long run.
You can add yoga, walking, or swimming to your routine. Start off easy and gradually increase your time as you feel comfortable. All three of these activities will be a great way to get back into an exercise routine, which is so important for our overall health.
You can also include your baby in these activities, or have him or her close by in an activity center, doing tummy time, or in a jumper, swing, etc. Some moms worry about losing milk supply while exercising. Here are a few tips to avoid a drop in milk supply.
- Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water and add electrolytes to your diet.
- Do not wear a tight sports bra. Wear one that is supportive, but does not restrict your breasts. This can cause mastitis or breast infections due to the restriction of milk flow.
- Do not over-exert yourself, especially if you didn’t exercise in pregnancy or are just getting back into a routine. Go easy on yourself.
- Ensure you’re eating all your required calories from healthy, real foods to maximize the nutrients your body is getting.
Can I Use Weight Loss Supplements While Breastfeeding? Will They Affect My Milk Supply?
Generally, weight loss supplements are not recommended while breastfeeding because they may contain ingredients that pass through your milk to your baby. Each supplement is different, of course, so if you have a specific question, consult with your lactation professional or contact me here.
Some supplements may affect your milk supply and cause a decrease in supply, for this reason, they are generally not recommended. There are oftentimes artificial sugars and herbs that may not be good for a breastfeeding mom.
If it doesn’t affect your milk supply, it could cause issues with your baby. Therefore, it is best to eat as healthy as you can, and follow a program that can get you seeing weight loss results without affecting your milk supply. Plus, don’t forget you can achieve that instead with my L.E.A.N. Mamas program.
There are sports nutrition companies that sell shakes and other weight loss products. Some of these are sold as “safe for breastfeeding moms” but, unfortunately, many of those claims are marketing claims and not actually true or safe.
If you are looking for some supplementation, I recommend a healthy protein shake to help kickstart your weight loss journey. Your best bet is to add one of these protein powders for breastfeeding moms.
How Many Calories Do I Need To Not Affect Milk Supply?
Milk production requires an extra 250-500 calories per day in breastfeeding mothers. If you are nursing exclusively, before your baby is six months old, you are likely to use about 500 extra calories to make milk for your baby.
If you are partially breastfeeding, you may only need an extra 250 calories to account for milk production. I talk about this in more depth in my Breastfeeding Nutrition Mini-course. So, that might be something that interests you too.
The good news is, as a breastfeeding mother, no matter what your diet consists of, breast milk is still the best option for your baby. It is full of vitamins and minerals your baby needs for optimal growth! So, if you feel like eating a few cookies here and there, don’t feel bad mama.
Benefits of a Nourished Mama During Postpartum Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
There are so many amazing benefits to a nourished mother if you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting your milk supply. A study performed with mothers shows us that nourished mothers are better able to care for their babies, and more excited to play with them too. This reveals that the food you eat affects your mood.
You are hormonally sensitive after birth. The food you eat and the way you eat it can affect this sensitive time, including your hormones, thyroid, etc. in huge ways, either making them worse or healing them. Understanding the sensitivity of your body postpartum can help you heal by providing real, nourishing food for your body.
A few studies indicate that a poor diet in postpartum mothers is directly linked to depression. Other benefits of eating well and taking care of yourself in the postpartum period include:
- Healing faster postpartum.
- Being better able to care for your baby.
- Playing with your baby more.
- Having more energy (and less exhaustion).
- An improved mood.
- Sleeping better.
- Fewer food cravings.
- A less fussy baby.
- Easier to identify problem foods.
- Better gut microbiome for mama and baby.
- A lactogenic diet that supports healthy milk production.
How a Diet Affects Breast Milk
Eating healthy not only promotes an emotionally stable mother, but it also provides the best nutrients possible for your nursing baby. The nutrients that pass through your milk to your baby include vitamins and minerals such as:
▹ Vitamin D
▹ Vitamin K
▹ Vitamin A
▹ B Vitamins
▹ Fatty Acids (Omegas)
▹ The Amino Acids
The vitamins and minerals that are less reliant on food to get to your baby are:
These rely on your maternal stores if you don’t get adequate amounts through your food to ensure your baby is getting plenty! Once you decide to wean your baby, your body will replenish its maternal stores. But why be without or have less of these important nutrients if you can eat healthy to get ample amounts in your diet?
Anti-Lactogenic Foods That Affect Milk Supply
There are herbs and foods to be aware of that could contribute to a decrease in milk supply. If you notice a decrease in milk supply, it’s always wise to start keeping a food journal and evaluating any new habits, supplements, medications, or foods you may have introduced. These could be having a direct impact on your milk supply.
According to Hilary Jacobson, author of Mother Food, watch out for these herbs if taken in large quantities:
Candy, gum, beverages, or foods flavored with extracts of these herbs may also reduce milk supply if taken often. These herbs can all be enjoyed in small amounts by most mothers. As with all foods and herbs, the effects of these varies from mother to mother. I always encourage mamas to be aware of the potential impact and observe your own reactions.
Foods that elevate stress hormones lead to the constriction of the capillaries in the breasts, inhibiting the communication of nerves and hormones. These would include soda, coffee, black tea, green tea, etc. Women with chronically low supply may try to avoid these, it may be an experimentation process too.
Foods that are astringent, like citrus juices can cause sensitive tissue to constrict leading to the restricted circulation of blood in the breasts, inhibiting the communication of nerves and hormones.
Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain sulfur which can make breast milk less tasty for some babies and even more difficult to digest. Onion and garlic are in this same category although many babies actually like the taste of their mother’s milk when eating garlic. These foods can sometimes cause belly discomfort, especially for newborn babies. You can try reintroducing these foods once your baby’s digestive tract is a little more developed and matured in a few months.
If your baby drinks less milk because it doesn’t appeal to him, or because he recognizes a taste that previously led to stomach upset, this may cause his mother’s supply to decrease. Cooking cruciferous veggies with dill, cumin, and mustard seeds may improve the milk’s flavor and digestibility.
You can lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting milk supply, but you need to make sure you go about weight loss in a healthy and smart way in order to be successful.
Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy in all aspects, but it is so worth all the love and bond that is formed between you and your baby. If you’re looking for more information on how to lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting milk supply, I cover everything in my L.E.A.N. Mamas program.
Remember these tips to help you in your journey to lose weight while breastfeeding while not affecting your milk supply:
- Care about what you put in your body!
- The food you eat impacts your baby, including the development of their gut microbiome.
- Evaluate your diet.
- Start with small changes to improve your diet.
- Stick with whole, pure foods.
- Add key foods and nutrients.
- Don’t do restrictive diets or heavy detoxing.
- Focus on the quality of food.
- Say positive affirmations about your body.