When it comes time to start your training or diet plan postpartum, it’s common for moms to worry about affecting their breast milk supply. I can relate. As a new mom committed to breastfeeding both of my sons as long as possible, I promised myself that I would stop my postpartum workouts immediately if I noticed decreased breast milk production. To me, losing the baby weight just wasn’t as important as having a healthy child.
The good news is that, when done in the right way, you can burn fat without dropping your breastmilk supply. Thankfully research shows that for most of us, we would have to be doing excessive dieting and caloric restriction for our supply to be affected. Ongoing milk supply maintenance is about supply and demand, so how much milk is being removed by your baby . . . not your diet.
To start, here are a few things that you need to know:
1. A breastfeeding mom needs an average of 300-500 extra calories per day to maintain a healthy milk supply. However, you might find that while you’re super hungry for the first few months, things might calm down after a while, and you can eat the same amount of calories pre-baby. Also, if you have higher storage of fat cells, you may not need to eat more than usual, even right after your baby is born. Don’t feel as though you have to calorie count for your supply to stay okay! Just keep breastfeeding your baby on demand and eat when you’re hungry.
2. By combining proper diet and exercise to burn extra calories, a healthy, well-nourished breastfeeding mom can safely lose up to 1 pound per week without impacting her breastmilk supply. One study even suggests that short-term weight loss of up to 2.2 lbs per week will not negatively affect milk supply or the baby’s well-being. In this particular study, the moms dieted for 11 days. So don’t stress! You can exercise, lose weight and still make milk for your baby.
How to burn fat without dropping your breastmilk supply:
As breastfeeding moms, our goal is to give our babies nutrients to promote their growth and health. Here are eight ways to ensure you burn fat without dropping your breast milk supply.
1. Drink up!
Breastfeeding moms need to stay hydrated. Drinking water can help to reduce appetite, causing you to burn more calories, so be sure to drink frequently and drink more if your urine appears dark yellow. I like to make sure I have a glass of water nearby when I breastfeed–and I carry around water with me throughout the day, as well.
2. Eat enough.
On average, most moms need an additional 300 to 500 calories a day to keep up their energy and milk supply. You don’t need to count calories (what busy mom wants to or has time for THAT?!). Just make sure you’re fueling yourself and are monitoring your hunger, energy, and cravings. Remember that not everyone will need these extra calories, though! Especially those who have high storage of fat cells already.
3. Eat real food.
Rather than processed foods, opt for a variety of whole foods focusing on lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. (Note: make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables to reduce exposure to pesticide residue). Often, less processed foods have a higher thermogenic effect, so you scorch calories as you chew!
4. Try a variety of different foods!
You’re more likely to stick to your fat-burning nutrition plan when incorporating various foods into your diet. Additionally, changing up the foods you eat will change the flavor of your breastmilk, exposing your baby to different tastes, which might help them more easily accept solid foods down the road. I focus on eating an assortment of different flavors, herbs, spices, and foods . . . And now that we’re introducing our son to solid foods, he has done fabulously! No picky eaters here!
5. Take a prenatal vitamin if needed.
If you’re unsure that you’re getting all the proper vitamins and minerals while breastfeeding, you may consider continuing to take a daily prenatal vitamin until you wean your baby. In addition to keeping your baby healthy, the chemical reactions that burn fat require the help of specific vitamins and other nutrients, so providing ample amounts of those key nutrients may increase your fat burning.
6. Limit caffeine.
I love my morning coffee as much as the next mom, but too much caffeine can be troublesome. Limit yourself to no more than 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of caffeinated drinks a day. Most women can drink up to 3 cups per day without it affecting their babies. For some, though, caffeine in your breastmilk might agitate your baby or interfere with your baby’s sleep (which is something NO breastfeeding momma wants!).
From a fat-burning perspective, sleep is crucial. With less sleep, the body seeks to meet the increased metabolic needs of longer waking hours by shifting into a lower gear, so to speak, that burns fewer calories and less fat. Limiting caffeine may help with sleep, and thus your body’s ability to burn fat.
7. Understand alcohol.
If you choose to drink alcohol, avoid breastfeeding for a while after having an alcoholic drink. It typically takes two to three hours for 12 ounces (340 grams) of 5 percent beer, 5 ounces (142 grams) of 11 percent wine, or 1.5 ounces (43 grams) of 40 percent liquor, depending on your body weight and whether or not you have had food. For optimal fat burning, however, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether. The extra calories from alcohol consumption are likely to stall fat loss. So cut the calories and look for calorie-free options like flavored or sparkling waters instead.
8. Watch for allergies.
Certain foods or drinks in your diet could cause your baby to become irritable or have an allergic reaction. Consult your baby’s doctor if your baby becomes fussy or develops a rash, diarrhea, or congestion soon after nursing. These signs could indicate a food allergy. Consider eliminating dairy products or other allergenic foods or ingredients, such as cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, or fish. If your baby is showing signs of reflux or “colic,” it is important to consider the possibility of a food allergy or intolerance as the underlying cause.
Remember, there’s no need to go on a “special diet” while you’re breastfeeding. If you’re consistent with postpartum exercise and focusing on making healthy nutrition choices, you and your baby will reap the rewards.