Having a baby is one of the hardest things a woman can do. You literally agree to give up your body for another human being. That’s pretty impressive.
While the payoff is huge and great and wonderful, it’s also hard. Really, really hard. The physical and emotional toll it takes is real, not to mention you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding; and things can just get so overwhelming pretty quickly.
Breastfeeding is a perfect example of this. You’ve just pushed a baby out of your nether regions, or even better, had it cut out of you, only to find out that the crazy changes your body is going through aren’t even close to done.
You have 2-3 days to recover from labor and get used to your extra soft and squishy shape when all of a sudden, your boobs are as hard as rocks and as big as cantaloupes. Then there’s the bras that look like they require a degree in engineering to operate, the chaffing, the leaking and so much more.
Top that off with the fact that you’re exhausted and that both you and your baby have a HUGE learning curve to make this nursing thing work. It’s enough to overwhelm any mom.
My Nursing Experience
With all the stress that comes along with breastfeeding, is it even possible to lose weight while nursing a baby? The answer is yes… for most people.
Every nursing mom is different, and every nursing mom will lose weight at a different rate. I was able to lose a little weight while nursing, but honestly I lost weight at such a slow rate that, it didn’t feel like I was making much progress (like… a pound or so a month.. for 10 months… it was pretty discouraging). But if you have the right mindset and the right tools to help you along the way, it could make a huge difference to your weight loss efforts.
I’ve nursed or pumped my kids for about 10 months each. I loved the feeling of satisfaction that it gave me knowing that I was their provider in every way, shape, and form. And I loved the quiet bonding time it gave me and my babies.
During my time nursing I learned a lot of great things that I want to pass on to every mom who’s trying their hardest to get their body back while breastfeeding a baby.
Losing Weight While breastfeeding
Let me stress again that every mom will lose weight differently while nursing. Your body is pretty amazing and it knows how to give your baby exactly what it needs. Your milk changes and adapts based on your baby’s needs, and your body does too.
Some women are able to drop weight faster while nursing, while others, *cough, cough, like me*, tend to hold on to a few extra pounds until they stop. I’ve never been able to lose all the weight I want while nursing, (or even close to it…) I have to wait until I’m done to get rid of those last pesky pounds.
I hold onto weight while nursing and really struggle to lose it. For some the pounds just seem to come off, but for a large amount of women, maybe even half, they will not drop much at all during this time. Regardless of which category you fall into, here are some of my favorite things to think about when combining breastfeeding and weight loss:
Consider Your Priorities
If breastfeeding is your number one goal, then that has to come first. Period.
You need to worry more about your milk production and supply than about the way your body looks. And you need to be okay with that.
Remember that this time really does pass quickly–enjoy it–embrace it–and don’t let that soft stomach or those leaky boobs frustrate you too much.
The 6 Week Rule
Six weeks. That’s how long you should give yourself to establish a breastfeeding norm. The first six weeks postpartum should be about you and your baby. THAT’S IT!!!
Don’t worry about losing weight. Don’t worry about hitting the gym. Don’t worry about anything but your baby and yourself.
Those first few weeks are when you learn what their different cries mean. It’s when you learn how they like to be held. It’s also when you learn that you can be completely 100% exhausted yet happy to wake up for the 12th time in one night to help your favorite tiny human who is totally dependent on you for everything.
During those first six weeks:
- Eat when you’re hungry. That’s right, just EAT! Don’t count calories. Don’t worry about anything but feeding your body when you’re hungry. (Notice I said hungry–not bored, not tired, not overly emotional).
- Feed yourself to fuel your body and don’t worry about counting calories. When your six weeks are up, then you can get to work. But for now, just listen to your body and make healthy food choices when it tells you you’re hungry. Make sure to include lots of veggies and protein in your nursing diet–after all, if it’s good for you, it’s good for your baby.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration is a key component of a good milk supply. You need more fluids than you think when nursing. Think of it this way: your body usually loses fluids in ways you’re aware of, like sweating or going to the bathroom. When you breastfeed, you add another source of fluid loss, which means you need to make sure to put more fluids into your body than usual to make up for what you’re losing.
- Figure out a nursing routine. Notice I said routine, not schedule–you’re dealing with a baby so a schedule is not likely to happen. But you can definitely develop a routine to help you figure out what you need to eat or drink before, during and after your nursing sessions.
Breastfeeding is not a fitness plan
Yes, it’s true that the very act of breastfeeding burns calories. Your body is working really hard making and delivering that milk. The average woman burns 300-500 calories a day when breastfeeding. BUT just because you’re burning extra calories, doesn’t mean you’re going to lose weight.
In fact, it’s extremely important that you replace those calories. As a nursing mama, you really need to consume extra calories so that you can feed yourself and your babe. I recommend using a nursing calorie counter that takes into account your height, weight, and activity level to help you determine your calorie needs.
The 3 Hour Workout Window
If you’re lucky, your baby should get on some sort of schedule after the first six weeks. It’s pretty common to have a baby that needs to eat every 3-4 hours. Which means, by the time you finish feeding, burping and changing your baby, you have a lot less than 3 hours to get anything done before you have to start the process all over again.
It’s amazing how quickly those hours pass. And sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to get in the car to go to the gym (plus most day cares won’t watch your babe until they are older) so at home workouts could be the quicker and more effective method here.
Get some light dumbbells, a yoga mat, and yoga ball, and get your fitness on!
Beat The Bra
Once you start working out again, it’s imperative that you make sure to take care of your milk makers. Those things are bigger and heavier than they’ve ever been, and you’re going to need a better bra to contain them than you had before your baby was born.
If you don’t have the budget for a new bra, consider doubling (or tripling) the ones you already have for better support during a workout.
And since we’re talking about bras, let’s also talk about what goes inside those bras. Chances are pretty good that you’re going to spring a leak or two while working out, so think ahead and get some nursing pads that you’re comfortable working out in. I like ones with adhesive backing or ones that prevent your milk from letting down.
One Last Thought
Whatever you do, please don’t forget to be patient! This might be the most important tip I can give you. It would be great if we could all pop back into pre-baby shape as soon as that baby pops out, but that’s not realistic, and wishing for it will only make you frustrated. Remember that it took you 40 weeks to grow that baby, so it’s going to take at least 40 weeks to get back into shape.
That’s normal. That’s natural. And that should be expected. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your body. If you’re eating right and exercising, you WILL get your pre-baby body back. If you’re like me, it won’t happen until months after you’re done nursing. But it is possible and it can happen. I’m living proof of that!
And when that time does come, choosing the best products will make the world of difference. I helped formulate IdealLean Protein with women’s bodies in mind so that no matter where you are at in life, or your fitness journey, it will benefit you, and help you build a lean and toned bod.
With zero carbs, sugar, or fat and 20g of whey protein isolate, you can fuel your body right, and recover effectively after training.
*Always consult your physician before taking any supplement while nursing