Now, I can't really offer up my personal experience here. My son nursed long and often and I did spend a fair amount of time knocking back the Little Debbies during those nursing sessions. I wasn't exactly trying very hard to lose the weight. On the other hand, I can't really say that I would have lost more weight if he'd been formula fed. Would I have eaten fewer snack cakes? Probably not. Would I have exercised more? In the early days, no, I think I would have just slept more.
Like I said, I don't have any worthwhile anecdotal evidence to share. All you could get from extrapolating my experience would be that nursing moms are lazy and like sweets. I don't think that's very fair or accurate to the moms who are working to get that weight off. This is something I've always wondered about. Most of the moms I hang out with are not happy with the extra pounds that they are carrying around post-pregnancy, but they aren't really too worried about it either. My mom friends who aren't carrying around any extra weight (and these are few) didn't really do much to lose it. Serious dieting is definitely not recommended during nursing. Paige Waehner talks about this in her article on losing weight after having a baby:
"Breastfeeding can help you lose weight, requiring an extra 500 calories from you a day and helping reduce some of the fat you gained during pregnancy. If you do breastfeed, make sure you're giving your body the fuel it needs for that extra energy demand. Now isn't the time to go on a diet; restricting your calories too much can reduce your milk supply, and losing too much weight (more than two pounds a week) can actually release toxins that wind up in your milk. The good news is, you can still exercise if you're breastfeeding. Studies show that moderate exercise won't affect milk production as long as you're giving your body enough calories."
One book that was around when I was nursing (and was just updated in 2007) was Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding: The Complete Nutrition Book for Nursing Mothers. I never did get around to reading it, but seeing its title on the shelves when I was browsing pregnancy and parenting books at the library or book store (which was often) was a factor in deciding to breastfeed my son. No kidding. It's like I read the title so many times, it became some kind of talking point. It was just one more tick I could put in the yes column for breastfeeding: "Hey, I can actually eat well and lose weight while doing this thing, people! Outta my way. I'm empowered." I needed all the ammo I could get back then. If I had read the book, I'm sure there would have been something in there about doing more than cursorily pushing a vacuum around for exercise and not eating those extra 500 calories a day entirely in Swiss Rolls.
When my son was a toddler, my weight came off. Not because he was nursing less, but because I decided that I had to make an effort with both my diet and exercise habits. If anything I'd say that it was because he was sleeping more and so I was sleeping more. I had more energy for exercise. Perhaps that middle-of-the-night nursing did contribute a little to not working out, though, because when he dropped the feed that came at 11 p.m., that's when I started hitting the treadmill at that hour.
So, what about your experience? Nursing moms... Are you losing the weight? Gaining? Do you feel like breastfeeding is a contributing factor to keeping the pounds on? Did you expect that breastfeeding would help you lose the weight more quickly?
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