Posted by: Admin | May 26, 2011

Dear LC – I am breastfeeding my 2 months old baby and I seem to have a big appetite. I am gaining weight and I would like to reduce the amount of food I eat to lose weight. Will losing weight reduce my milk production?


That old saying we often hear while we are pregnant – that “you are eating for two” – is just not true. A pregnant woman needs to eat well and must gain weight according to her Body Mass Index (BMI). If you were underweight, you will need to increase the amount of calories you eat; if you have a normal BMI, you will need to eat normally; and if you have a high BMI, you will probably need to decrease the amounts you were eating and carefully select those foods you choose to eat. While pregnant, you need to eat healthy foods! Ideally, you would continue eating healthily even after your baby is born. Some of us lose weight quickly and effortlessly after the birth of our baby. Sometimes this weight loss occurs because the body was retaining a lot of water during pregnancy. Other women lose weight because of the amount of worry and energy the care of a new baby demands. But for others, like me, each pregnancy seemed to bring an additional 5 kg. The weight just will not come off!

We wrongly assume that making breastmilk demands a lot of energy from our body, but, for a mother with a moderate activity level, it requires only 250 more calories per day. A 30 gr piece of cheese and 4 crackers can easily provide these extra calories. As new mothers, we often feel tired, leading us to believe we are in need of replenishment. We think we will be more energetic if we eat, and as a result we sometimes end up overeating. As we do not have a lot of time, we also do not choose the foods we eat carefully enough. A quick snack of veggies would be perfect, but who has time to wash and cut them up?

Breastfeeding mothers who eat when feeling hungry tend to lose weight gradually, at a rate of 0.6 to 0.8 kg per month in the first 4 to 6 months of lactation. If a mother wants to lose weight, she should increase her activity level instead of reducing what she eats. So stay away from foods that contain a lot of fat and have empty calories (like pastries or sweets)! Ideally, you would eat healthy, nourishing foods so that you have an energy level good enough to keep you healthy and able to care for your baby. Remember that it is important not to lose weight too quickly when you breastfeed. You should not force weight loss during the first 2 months after giving birth, as you need to recover from childbirth and to establish a good milk supply.

Not eating well or eating very little for a few days following an illness will not really affect your milk supply, but eating less than the amount you need for a long time, like 3 weeks and more, can lower your milk supply to the point where you are not able to meet your baby’s needs. Also, environmental contaminants store in fatty tissue, and when you lose a lot of weight quickly you melt down your fatty tissue; then, the contaminants released can pass through breastmilk.

What can a breastfeeding mother do to lose weight?

First of all, all the solutions I will propose will be difficult to achieve if the mother has no support! Having some help from a family member, a friend or a partner is essential for a breastfeeding mother. To maintain her weight or to lose weight at a healthy pace, a breastfeeding mother can:

Increase her level of activity: Taking a walk with your baby in a baby wrap is a good way to increase your activity level while staying with your baby. You can start walking a short distance when you come home from the hospital and increase the distance a little at a time. Starting to wear your baby in a wrap right after birth will help your back muscles to strengthen with the increasing weight of your baby.

See a nutritionist: If you do not have one in your community, call another community’s nutritionist!

Have a healthy beverage instead of eating: Drinking to thirst is important for our health. Sometimes, we think we need to eat when in fact a nice glass of water is what our body needs. You should remember that breastfeeding mothers do not need to “overdrink”, as thirst will increase automatically with the amount of milk produced. If you need some extra calories, try smoothies made with yogurt and real fruits.

Have someone prepare healthy ready-to-eat snacks: It is not easy to find time to prepare healthy snacks that can be ready when a mother needs it. But friends and family often offer their help, and they would surely be happy to cut up some fruits or vegetables and prepare a nice low-fat dip!

Eat the foods you like but reduce the portions: In some cases, it might be good to reduce the size of our portions. A nutritionist can evaluate if there is a need to do this.

Reduce the amount of fat you are using to prepare your family meals: When cooking for a big family, we often use recipes that ask for a lot of fat. There are tricks to help us reduce the amount of fats we use, and the healthier diet will benefit everyone in the family. A nutritionist can also help you with this.

In conclusion, be patient! The weight will go down with an increase in activity and foods carefully chosen. Do not go on a diet. You need energy to take care of your baby!

🙂

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Responses

  1. Dear LC,
    Nursing is really painful, the dr said I might have Thrush. What is it, and how can I get rid of it?

    • I’ll answer your question soon! Check the Dear LC Thrusday posts.

      Dany 🙂


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