I've heard that breast-feeding promotes weight loss. Is that true?
Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
Beyond providing nourishment and helping to protect your baby from getting sick, breast-feeding can also help you lose weight gained during pregnancy.
When you breast-feed, you use fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy — along with calories from your diet — to fuel your milk production and feed your baby. Weight loss during breast-feeding can occur even when you follow the recommendations to eat an additional 400 to 500 calories a day to keep up your energy.
However, after an immediate postpartum weight loss of about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms), weight loss tends to happen gradually — at about 1 to 2 pounds (0.45 to 0.9 kilogram) a month for the first six months after childbirth and more slowly after that point. It often takes six to nine months to lose weight gained during pregnancy.
During breast-feeding, focus on making healthy choices. Opt for a variety of whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated. If you're trying to lose weight, avoid sources of empty calories, such as soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, whole milk and fatty meats. Moderate physical activity can help, too. If, after six months of breast-feeding, you want to lose more weight, you can more carefully restrict your calories as your baby begins to eat more solid foods.
June 04, 2014
- Weight loss while breastfeeding. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/pregnancy-breastfeeding/weight-loss.html. Accessed Feb 19, 2014.
- Younger Meek J, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2011:124.
- Gabbe SG, et al. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2013.