Breastfeeding is the best way to support your growing baby. It’s a time to bond and help your baby thrive. But it’s not the best if you want to prevent post-baby weight gain completely.
When you breastfeed, your body starts to hold onto calories. You need some weight to keep producing your milk for your baby. If you lose weight quickly, you could find that your milk supply drops significantly and you need to switch to formula milk for your little one.
The good news is that you don’t just have to put up with weight gain. You can minimize the effect while you are breastfeeding and even help to lose the weight slowly. Here are all the tips you need to keep your weight gain to a minimum but keep your milk supply at the best level for your little one.
Start By Understanding Your New Body
You won’t get to the same shape and size you were pre-baby. Your whole body has been through a major change. Your hips will have widened, and you may find that skin has stretched and broken. It’s important to understand all the changes that happened and understand what your body is going through now.
You’re making food for a tiny human; a human that is completely reliant on you. These really aren’t small changes for your body. They affect everything about you, including your metabolism.
To be able to produce the healthiest milk in large amounts your body needs to absorb all the nutrients you provide it. At the same time, it needs to support your own nutritional needs. Your metabolism speeds up to manage it all, so you end up extremely hungry very quickly.
You need an extra 850 calories or so a day to help replace the ones that your body is burning up. Of course, most of us start reaching for the food that isn’t exactly the healthiest, rather than focusing on those that will offer our baby and us the best nutrients ever.
It doesn’t help that we end up sleep deprived. We still need the usual sleep that we used to get, but our baby doesn’t understand that. Babies wake for feeds and other reasons throughout the night. They can find it hard to get to sleep and find the only way they get comfort is when they’re cuddled into you.
Being sleep deprived and hungry leads to one thing: carbohydrate cravings. We want food that will quickly solve the hunger issue while giving us the energy to get through the day. But the carbs that we eat tend to have more calories than we’re burning and we start to gain a lot of weight.
By understanding everything, we will find it easier to control the need to give into those cravings. We hold back, knowing that we need to make other choices to minimize the weight gain. We also need to make better choices to avoid nutrient deficiency, because our body will supply as many nutrients as possible for our baby.
Hold Back the Unrealistic Expectations
Before you start pulling out those pre-pregnancy clothes, be realistic about your weight loss efforts. Just because you’ve had your baby doesn’t mean you will immediately fit back into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Sure, there are mothers who manage it, but these are rare creatures.
While breastfeeding, you need to keep your weight loss efforts healthy. That means not losing 10lbs in a week or trying those 90lbs in a month diets. Losing your weight too quickly will mean losing your milk supply.
It’s also worth holding back the unrealistic expectations for your mental health. The more pressure you put on yourself to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes, the harder it will be to accept that your body needs something different right now. Your body needs some of the extra weight to be able to keep supporting your baby, so allow it to have that for now. Just have the expectation or the goal to keep it to a minimum.
Focus on the Filling Foods
Rather than snacking throughout the day, you need to create a meal plan. This is the core of minimizing your weight gain while you breastfeed. It can also help to keep hunger pangs to a minimum while supporting your mental health and reducing the risk of postnatal depression.
Carbs give some temporary boosts of energy, but you want to look at foods that are going to prolong the energy boosts. This means planning meals that focus on filling foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. All these foods are filled with fiber or protein, which are two food groups that break down in the body slowly.
Protein and fiber fill you up quickly to keep the calorie intake to a minimum. You don’t feel the need to snack throughout the day. If you do, then you can reach for more fiber to fill you up more than a packet of cookies or a chocolate bar will do.
This doesn’t mean that the carbs must be avoided completely. Your body can still benefit from them. Look out for some of the healthier versions of the carbs, such as wholegrain pasta and bread. These types of carbs have extra fiber in them, which helps to make you feel fuller for longer. You’ll keep the calorie intake down, reduce your cravings, and slow down your weight gain while breastfeeding.
Opt for Smart Substitutions for Your Snacks
There will be times that you really want to snack. Don’t put yourself down about this. Your body is telling you that it needs more energy to get you through the day. Remember the hard work your body is doing producing food for another person.
What you really want to do is focus on healthier snacks. Find smart substitutions for the most commonly opted ones like the crisps and chocolate. You can still have some chocolate and cookies now and then, but you want to keep the inclusion of them in your diet to a minimum—and planned.
Have some chopped up vegetable sticks ready for when you need a snack? You can pull out a salsa or hummus dip and use that to enjoy your vegetable sticks a little more. A trail mix makes an excellent smart substitution. This is full of nuts, which are full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. You also get plenty of selenium, which tends to be a nutrient that we are deficient it. The selenium deficiency will contribute to your tiredness and carb cravings.
Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently
There has always been this mindset of eating three meals a day and two snacks in between them. Well, it’s time to get out of that mindset, especially while breastfeeding. Your body needs more calories and needs to get those calories more frequently throughout the day.
Smaller meals more frequently in the day will help you get the energy you need without the weight gain. You still get the same amount of calories as you would have done on a three meal a day approach, but they are more evenly spread out. You’ll find that you snack less throughout the day because as your body fully digests the last meal, you are replacing it with a new one. You’re not letting your stomach tell your brain that you are absolutely starving.
If you don’t eat regularly enough, your body will pull the calories from those that you’ve reserved in the past. But won’t this create a calorie deficit and help you lose weight? Not quite. It leads to you feeling hungry. You start to feel drained and tired, especially since you’re not getting all the nutrients that you eat throughout the day. You’re more likely to snack, and you will always want the sugar and the carbs.
Create a Minimal Calorie Deficit
There’s nothing wrong with doing some type of diet plan while you’re breastfeeding, but you need to do the right type of diet plan. Diets like Weight Watchers will factor in the breastfeeding and make sure you get enough food to support your baby. The plans are created to make sure that while you create a calorie deficit, that deficit is minimal.
Remember that your body is burning an extra 850 calories or so more a day than it used to do. If you used to burn 1,700 calories a day, you would now burn 2,500 calories a day. You don’t want to reduce your calorie intake to just 1,200 a day like you would have done before pregnancy.
Experts recommend avoiding anything lower than 1,800 calories. This is the bare minimum that your body will need to support you and your baby. If you drop lower than that, you will see your weight drop off, and your milk supply drops down. It’s not worth it for your baby.
You don’t really need to reduce your calories by much more than the 1,800 calories. Lowering your calories by 500 a day will help you lose a pound a week. This is a healthy weight loss, and you will see the difference over time. Your baby will also be fully supported and healthy.
Even dropping your calories down by 100 or 200 will help you minimize your weight gain. You’re still forcing your body to burn some of the excess calories you’ve stored over the pregnancy to avoid any sort of weight gain.
If you’re not bothered about losing weight, just stick to your current metabolic rate. Going over is going to lead to weight gain, so sticking at a like for like ratio every day will help to keep the weight gain to a minimum.
Don’t Skimp on the Exercise
Yes, you can do exercise while you are breastfeeding. This isn’t something you want to do right after having a baby, especially if you had a c-section. Discuss when you can start your exercise regime with your doctor and keep the initial exercise slow and steady. Build your way up to doing 150 minutes of low-intensity exercise on a weekly basis.
Exercise isn’t just good for burning more calories. It will also help to tone your muscle. You’ll boost your metabolic rate naturally by having more muscle needing more energy.
The exercise will also help you to manage your cravings. While it will burn energy, so you need to eat more, it will also boost the happy hormones in your body. You’ll feel healthier and fitter, which means you won’t want to destroy the hard work by reaching for a chocolate bar.
Before you do any exercise, make sure you support your body. You can reduce your milk supply if you do too much without the right diet. Opt for a smart carby meal 30 minutes before your activity. This helps to fuel your body with the instant energy that you will need to get through the workout. It will also lessen the hunger pangs you get after, meaning that you reach for the snacks.
Keep at It, and You Will Minimise Breastfeeding Weight Gain
You don’t need to pile on the pounds because you’re breastfeeding. One of the best things you can do is look at your diet and make some changes to support yourself. Your body needs the extra calories right now, but it wants to get the calories from the right place.
Create a meal plan that will eliminate unnecessary snacking. Focus on getting smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, and make sure those smaller meals are full of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and starchy carbs. All of these will give you the energy to get you through the day and stop yourself from getting tired and run down. You won’t feel the cravings for the sugars and simple carbs daily.
Enjoy your time with your baby and don’t make this time all about weight loss. Focus on slow and steady, making sure your body is just right for supplying all the nutrients and the milk supply that your little one needs.