By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
6 Tips to Losing Weight While Breastfeeding & Maintaining Your Milk Supply
Losing weight after having a baby can feel like a whole new ball game! The tried and true methods for weight loss all seem to be complicated by the new baby in your life. With postpartum weight loss, there are a few other things at play that can impact your goals such as keeping your milk supply up, balancing hormones, and supporting your overall wellbeing, not to mention being sleep deprived!
How Many Calories Do Breastfeeding Moms Need?
Dr. Google will give you very generic guidelines when you do a quick search and tell you a breastfeeding woman needs an additional 450-500 calories a day. However, these guidelines often do not take into consideration the many variable factors in energy needs. Energy needs (aka calorie needs) are influenced by your muscle mass, activity level and individual factors such age, resting metabolic rate and BMI (height/weight). For breastfeeding moms, how much you need while breastfeeding also includes how often and for how long you are breastfeeding. Is your baby 3-4 months old and still exclusively breastfeeding? or are they 1 year and nursing 2-3 times a day and having some solids? Moms in both of those situations are going to have very different energy needs. Working with a Registered Dietitian, can help you determine your needs if you are feeling lost. Once you’ve got a better idea of how much you need, keep these 6 keys in mind to lose weight and keep your milk supply up:
1. Hydrate Like a Mother!
You may have noticed since starting your journey with breastfeeding your appetite has increased and you feel thirsty despite drinking what seems like a substantial amount of water. If you’re “not a water drinker” then reach for HydroMom! Not only is it low calorie, it also combines electrolytes, sodium, and glucose to help you feel hydrated, fuller longer, and can prevent you from overeating.
We recommend drinking at least 8-10 cups of water every day. Wondering how a busy mom like you can do this with ease?
- As soon as you wake up, drink two cups of water before your coffee or tea.
- Keep your water bottle filled with water or HydroMom and sip on it throughout the day
- Finally, drink one cup each time you sit down to breastfeed or pump — Just like that you snuck in 8-10 cups and are ready to start your weight loss journey.
2. Aim for Whole Foods
Focus on choosing whole foods which are minimally processed: lean proteins, whole grains, legumes (beans and seeds), healthy fats (avocado, nuts and olive oils) alongside plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as the backbone of your diet. Choosing foods that are nutrient dense (high nutrition, low calories) and rich in galactogogues can help you lose weight and keep your milk supply up. You can consider adding in milk boosting superfoods as well for additional support.
3. Balance Your Macronutrients
Nobody wants to be hungry when trying to lose weight, so getting strategic about your macronutrients is crucial. Instead of cutting out food groups, aim to pair macronutrients (fiber rich carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats) together to provide balanced blood sugar and avoid cravings. Including adequate protein and fiber with your meals and snacks can keep you full and satisfied. Keep snacks a mix of these macronutrients so that you don’t end up in a mid-afternoon crash searching the cupboards for something sweet.
4. Keep Quick and Easy Options on Hand
Lack of sleep, high stress hormones and a constant supply of packaged, ready to go food options can tack on the calories. Keep the options you have on hand in your nursing basket, car, and diaper bag healthy by doing some prep work. Some basic meal prep and batch cooking (think boiling eggs, slicing fruits/vegetables, pre-portioning snacks into bags, or making a batch of energy bites) can help you avoid mindless snacking. To save time, you can purchase pre chopped fruits/vegetables, single serving greek yogurts and protein bars/protein powder. Protein bars and powders can be a quick option but be sure to choose products that are nutrient dense with minimal ingredients that provide superfoods and have a mix of protein and fiber!
5. Focus on “Adding In” Superfoods
Often we think that pregnancy and breastfeeding can give us “permission” to eat more: this mentality can lead us to fill up on foods that aren’t as nutrient dense to support our health or weight. Getting “more bang for your buck” is ideal when trying to lose weight. Reframing our mindset can help us avoid highly processed foods, fried foods, liquid beverages (juice, soda, or alcohol) as these are often very low in nutrients and high in calories. Be mindful of your portion sizes with higher calorie foods such as fats: oils, nuts, avocado/guacamole and more processed snack foods as these can add up quickly. Focus instead on adding in higher volume and lower calorie superfood choices. Try these delicious swaps:
- Swap ½ c of trail mix (340 calories) for ¼ c of whole almonds + a piece of fresh fruit (260 calories)
- Instead of 1 cup ice cream (260 calories) try out a protein smoothie with BOOBIE* Body Superfood protein powder, milk of choice, and fruit blended with ice (190 calories)
- Instead of pretzels and peanut butter (320 calories) try 2 hard boiled eggs + 2 TB hummus and fresh vegetables (240 calories)
- 2-3 homemade energy bites (made with oats, nut butter, and flax seed) or BOOBIE* Bark and fresh berries ~240 vs conventional lactation cookies and a drink
6. Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
Ensure you allow yourself to rest and heal completely after birth before making weight loss a priority. Many women can begin introducing movement after the 6-week postpartum check up, but as with any recovery journey know that slow and steady will win the race vs quick fixes.
Your weight loss journey might look different now than before motherhood and may require more time and consistency. It all depends on your weight, diet, and lifestyle both before pregnancy and during. If you are doing “everything” that you did pre-pregnancy which used to help you to lose weight: including being mindful of your diet, integrating exercise, keeping your hydration up, consider getting your hormone levels checked. Often estrogen dominance and thyroid level imbalances can occur postpartum. Some studies show that breastfeeding causes weight retention, so if you are struggling to get that last 10 pounds off, know that for many women after they wean the weight comes off. This is actually an incredibly adaptive response from your body which prioritizes protecting energy storage to use to ensure your baby has enough to eat.
With some strategy, time, and consistency you can meet your breastfeeding and weight loss goals while protecting your precious milk supply. See how all of our BOOBIE* Superfoods products can help support your journey here and always LOVE your Body.