Dropping Baby Weight From the Comfort of Your Couch
As if using your body to feed your child isn't miracle enough, the act of breastfeeding might actually help speed up your return to your skinny jeans. On the other hand, you might be one of those women who could breastfeed triplets and still never lose the final 20 pregnancy pounds. It's true that nursing does burn a lot of calories, but it's not a miracle weight-loss strategy for most women.
Burn, Baby, Burn
A breastfeeding woman can burn up to about 500 calories per day just by feeding her baby. It's hard to estimate the exact number of calories you'll burn because there are so many factors at play. Your weight, diet, metabolism, milk supply and your baby's appetite all affect how much breastfeeding you can do and how it will actually affect your daily calorie balance.
For some women, breastfeeding actually makes it harder to lose pregnancy weight. Producing milk takes energy. Compared to new moms who don't nurse, you might feel far hungrier and end up eating more calories than you can burn through breastfeeding. It's also easier to justify eating a second serving of cake or chips if you write them off as breastfeeding calories, which can get some moms into trouble.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom
The promise of easy weight loss is one of the things that entices moms to devote themselves to breastfeeding. It's far from the only one, though, which is good to remember if you realize a few weeks in that you're not dropping weight as easily as you expected.
The practice is linked to tons of health benefits. For one, it's a huge money-saver when you feed your baby for free instead of buying pricey formula. Breastfeeding also stimulates your body to release oxytocin and prolactin, which are the “happy” hormones that help with stress reduction. Research shows that nursing now may protect you against certain diseases later in life. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of developing certain kinds of breast and ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
Even if you don't experience any of the other health benefits of breastfeeding, doing it at least for a little while helps you bond with your baby and spend a lot of quiet one-on-one time with her. Those blissful moments can do a lot to make up for your exhaustion.
Losing Weight After Baby
After you have a baby, you may look at the world with new eyes. Everything may seem different. But one thing stays the same: There is no magic bullet for losing weight. It all comes down to following a moderate diet and exercise regimen.
Your doctor can help you set a reasonable weight loss goal at your postpartum appointment. For most women, losing about a pound per week is appropriate, but your pre-pregnancy weight and any recovery complications may play a role in determining the right rate of weight loss for you. Losing too much weight too quickly can diminish your milk supply, so don't create any unreasonable goals.
Walking is one of the best ways to drop pregnancy weight. You can take your baby with you as you walk around your neighborhood or on a track, and the movement may even encourage her to sleep. Joining a postpartum exercise class is also a great way to burn calories and build a support system with other new moms. Get your doctor to sign off before you attempt any exercise more strenuous than walking, though.