I thought I’d prepared for every scenario of having a newborn—almost. Enter breastfeeding.
There was nothing natural, sweet, or easy about the breastfeeding learning curve I faced. I consoled myself through weeks of clogged ducts, antibiotics for mastitis, and flow worries with two thoughts: my baby’s brain and immune system will benefit from this, and I’ll lose postpartum weight faster burning so many calories. Yet, only one of those assumptions was true!
Contrary to all I’d heard and read, I learned quickly breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily make you lose weight. As a mom approaching her baby’s first birthday with a few pounds to go, I’m here with a dose of perspective about the postpartum weight loss journey while breastfeeding.
First, let me add disclaimer for some of us: Weight loss isn’t about our vanity, but our sanity. As a new mom, we’re questioning our very identities as human beings, learning how to care for another human being and ourselves concurrently. Our agility, our rest, our ability to care for ourselves directly correlates with our ability to care for our babies during this time. Our hormones are sloshing like water in a bucket on a ship’s deck, our sleep is disrupted, our bodies are wrecked. We want to fit back into our old jeans, go on a date with makeup on, and feel like ourselves again.
Losing our postpartum weight is part of that. Postpartum depression is a very real danger, combatted in part by very real exercise and serotonin boosters like sunlight and fresh air. All that said, weight loss while breastfeeding, for some of us, is going to be a challenge worthy of confronting.
Real Ways to Achieve Postpartum Weight Loss—Without the Guilt or Frustration
Embrace the postpartum body: Before diving into weight loss plans, it’s crucial to embrace and honor your postpartum body. Prepare for it to be tough, knowing that your mentality is more than half the battle. Remember, you just brought a new life into the world, and your body has gone through incredible changes to support that journey. Accepting and loving your new body is the first step towards a healthy weight loss journey.
Prioritize nutrition: While breastfeeding, your body requires extra nutrients to support both your needs and your baby’s growth. Count calories. To get to your exciting end game, you’ve got to be ready for some consistent, mundane calorie counting, ensuring what you’re eating is what you’re needing. Advocate for nutrition above all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends breastfeeding women consume 2,000 – 2,800 calories. Focus on nourishing foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in your diet. Avoid crash diets or extreme calorie restrictions, as they can negatively impact your milk supply and overall health.
Stay hydrated: Breastfeeding can lead to increased thirst, as your body needs more fluids to produce milk. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is vital for both milk production and your overall well-being. Keeping a water bottle nearby and sipping water regularly will help you stay hydrated and support your weight loss efforts.
Eat mindfully: Being a new mom can be demanding, leading to hasty eating habits. Practice mindful eating by listening to your body’s hunger cues and eating slowly. Avoid distractions like television or smartphones during meals, as they may lead to overeating. Mindful eating not only aids weight loss but also helps develop a healthy relationship with food.
Incorporate physical activity: Gradually introduce gentle exercises into your daily routine. Keep up your step count. Do exercises that make you stronger, especially with the muscles you need to lift a growing little one. Walking, yoga, or postnatal exercises specifically designed for new moms are great choices. Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your body heals and adapts. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
Get enough sleep: We understand that getting enough sleep with a newborn can be challenging. But it’s impossible to stress enough how crucial rest is for weight loss and overall wellbeing. While the adage “nap while the baby naps” sounds infuriating at times, it’s a great cliché to remind us we can leave some tasks undone. Better yet, for the sake of prioritizing your own wellbeing, sanity, and ability to care for the baby, be willing to delegate tasks that could keep you awake when you could be napping. If people offer to come help with the baby, let them enjoy baby cuddles, get yourself a nap, and allow these kind volunteers take care of the dishes or the laundry.
Weight loss isn’t about our vanity, but our sanity.
Set realistic goals: Losing weight while breastfeeding may take time, and it’s essential to set realistic and achievable goals. Have a goal in mind that is exciting, like a new pair of workout leggings every ten pounds lost or a date with yourself in a new dress after achieving another goal. Aim for gradual and steady weight loss, rather than quick fixes. Celebrate every small milestone, and remember that progress is a journey, not a destination.
Find a support system: Join a local moms’ group or online community where you can connect with other breastfeeding moms on a similar weight loss journey. Sharing experiences, tips, and encouragement can be both empowering and motivating.
Be content with your progress. On the days the scale doesn’t budge, don’t get discouraged. Take a moment to feel what you need to feel, then shift to the precious moments you have because of your choice to breastfeed. Some babies wean themselves before one year, or life circumstances do it for them, meaning that you have all the rest of the years of your life to get “ripped” at the gym. The moments of breastfeeding your baby are so much more limited than the moments you can have working out.
Be so gracious with yourself and your body. Acknowledge your choice to breastfeed as a win! You have literally just created another human life, and deserve all the grace, all the gold stars, and all the medals for what you went through!
Photo by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels
Our very own This Grit and Grace Life podcast cohost, Julie Bender, recently had a baby! She shares some of the postpartum lessons she’s learned in this podcast episode: Cohost Julie Bender: Life Lessons Learned in her Newest Chapter – 205