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Losing Weight While Breastfeeding: I Didn't

By November 11, 2008

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I was just reading an article in the Standard-Examiner about exercising while pregnant. Two experts were quoted on how breastfeeding moms keep more weight on than formula-feeding moms. OB-GYN Jed Naisbitt told the paper that "breastfeeding moms usually weigh 10 pounds more than their bottle-feeding counterparts, although they burn 200 to 500 more calories a day." And lactation consultant Sue Bedard said that "breastfeeding moms almost never lose that last 5 pounds while nursing."

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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Comments
November 12, 2008 at 3:47 pm
(1) Jenn says:

I gained. I only gained 17 pounds while I was pregnant with my twins and came home from the hospital below my pre-pregnancy weight. Then I proceeded to gain it all back plus some. I also ate a lot more sweets and junk than I normally did while I was nursing.

November 13, 2008 at 9:42 am
(2) Chris says:

I gained about 30 pounds with each pregnancy. I nursed my son for 10 months and my daughter for 13 months. I went back to work fulltime after my maternity leaves. There was little time for exercise. I lost weight while nursing both of them and weighed less than before I was pregnant. While nursing I was always hungry, and felt like I was always eating any and every thing.

November 13, 2008 at 12:37 pm
(3) Ronda says:

I lost weight rapidly when I breastfed. I gained 22 lbs during pregnancy and after 2 months, I am back to my pre-pregnancy wieght. This happenend with both pregnancies and I only breastfed 4 months each time.

November 13, 2008 at 5:11 pm
(4) Mary says:

I think it all depends on what shape you are in before you get pregnant and what genes you;re born with. I was in pre-pregnancy jeans the week I gave birth to my second. I ate my brains out through breastfeeding and kept my weight low and then lost those last 5lbs after weaning — but I take no credit for it. I was just lucky to have a better metabolism than others who are much better disciplined (and probably healthier overall than I am).

November 13, 2008 at 5:19 pm
(5) Melissa says:

I lost most of my pregnancy weight while breastfeeding my first and second child, but with the first I didn’t lose those “last 10 pounds” until well after he had weaned. I’m still breastfeeding the second, and am too hungry to even think about losing weight. Nursing takes a lot out of you!

November 14, 2008 at 10:03 am
(6) Greta says:

I was told during my pregnancy that I would lose my pregnancy weight during the 1st year of nursing, and any additional, extra weight during the 2nd year. It seemed to be true for me. I’m into my 3rd year, now, and I’ve noticed a slight change in my metabolism– I do have to be a bit more careful with what I eat!

November 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm
(7) Karen says:

I’m still nursing my 1-yr-old, and my weight has done some funny things. I lost all the baby weight plus a couple pounds within the first two months (nursing, or post-partum depression?); then I gained 8 lbs in a month (after an ankle injury); then I lost 12 lbs in a month (after a mysterious virus). So I’m a little under my pre-prego weight right now, but it’s not like I’ve done anything to get it there. My only tip is to try licking doorknobs and light switches and hope you get on the magic weight-loss 4 Weeks of Vomit diet. I agree with Mary; it’s probably lucky genes and good metabolism. It sure wasn’t sit-ups!

November 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm
(8) Erin says:

I gained 33 pounds with my second daughter and chose not to breastfeed her and I lost all my weight in about 4 weeks and during that time I was recovering from a c-section and so as far as exercising it was zilch and my appetite was about the same when I was pregnant. Not sure if a lot of was just baby weight and water retention. My legs and feet were very swollen. But I am amazed how it came off. Now I am trying to lose my baby weight from my 4 year old *HAHA*

November 17, 2008 at 2:49 pm
(9) Suki says:

Pre-pregnancy I was 5’8″ and 130 lbs (size 6) and gained 43 lbs (mostly in my belly). I have been nursing for 8.5 months and lost most of the weight within the first 6-8 weeks (size 10). I have slowly lost more and am about 146lbs (size 8). I am hoping when I finish nursing I will get back down to 130lbs but unsure bc there is no way I could keep up with my original gym schedule with a child. I may just need to deal. By no means am I fat and people would think I am a PITA to complain, but I personally wish I weighed less.

I eat mostly organic and healthyóand I am hungry all of the time. If I don’t keep up with eating small meals/snacks almost every 2 hours my supply will drop. Especially now that I am pumping at work. I worked out 5-6 days a week for the first 14 weeks and pre-coming back to work. There was time while the baby slept…now there is zero time with a career, baby and 1-2 night feedings. I long for my former self that slept 8 hours a day and had time to work out.

BTW to all these people that constantly talk about getting back into their pre-pregnancy jeans within a week of birth I have to wonder what the heck that means? How did your jeans fit pre-pregnancy and were designer (and fit relatively tightly)? There would have been no way for my True Religion or Joe’s size 29′s to fit within a week of birth–let alone the first 3 months. Even when my belly was basically flat my hip bones took time to come back together. I think if one wears “average” jeans doing this may be more possible.

December 7, 2008 at 12:25 am
(10) Glory says:

Iím 22 years old and my third child is seven months old. Iím nursing for the first time and also for the first time I am not only not losing, Iím gaining. I only gained about 16 pounds through my pregnancy, and within several weeks of her being born I had lost 12 of those. I now have gained all of that back plus some. I weigh more than I did during my pregnancy. Is this normal for anyone else? I havenít been dieting, but I am eating the same as during my pregnancy.

January 8, 2009 at 6:29 pm
(11) Sarah says:

I just had my first child (November 2008) and have been breastfeeding for almost 2 months now. I was a superb 110 pounds before getting pregnant. By my ninth month in pregnancy I was 165 pounds!!! My midwife say’s I probably gained some necessary healthy weight that I needed anyway. I haven’t lost much weight, but haven’t gained either.

January 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm
(12) Lisa Henderson says:

My son is nearly five months and I am breast feeding – hope to for a few more months too. I was in great shape when i got pregnant, put on 30 pounds during the pregnancy (I am 5’9″)….. I am at the gym, I am watching my diet (eating healthy but not denying my hunger either mind you, but it’s all salads and good stuff) and do you think I can lose that last 10 pounds? It’s kind of depressing I have been trying the last 2 months and my bathroom scales WILL NOT BUDGE. This is my first child and I want more, but I am despairing I am going to to have to buy a whole new wardrobe as I simply can’t get into my pre pregnancy clothes!!!!!

January 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm
(13) Carrie says:

I’m 5’4″ and weighed around 135 when I became pregnant. I went to the gym throughout pregnancy (was there the day before I gave birth!) and gained 27 pounds. Everyone said it didn’t even look like I gained that much. My daughter is 3 months old, I breastfeed exclusively and have lost nothing besides the intial weight loss after I gave birth! I wasn’t exercising as much right after the pregnancy or being as careful about what I ate, especially with the holidays, though I wasn’t pigging out. So, I started cutting out all sweets, logging my calories (am hungry most of the time, trying to keep calories around 1200/day) and exercising every day – and guess what? I STILL weigh 150! It’s like no matter what I do, I can’t lose a single pound. I do cardio 6 days a week minimum – usually an hour, though sometimes 30-45 min, plus weights twice a week. Everyone told me that I would lose weight so easily because I kept exercising while pregnant and because I’m breastfeeding. Everyone was wrong and I’m scared that I’m going to be this weight forever :(

January 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm
(14) becky says:

I nursed my son (13 years ago) for eight months and lost 8 lbs almost over night once I weaned him. I was very careful what I ate and also exercised but those last pounds didn’t budge. I am now nursing a 6 month old (I am a lot older now) and in process of weaning – I exercise and diet but am still holding on to 10 lbs. I am thinking that they will drop off like last time after I wean so I am not worrying too much about it.

February 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm
(15) Lisa says:

I lost a lot of weight after giving birth to both my daughters. I gained 45 lbs with each pregnancy. After the pregnancies (and while nursing), I was down to 10 lbs less than pre-pregnancy weight. I attribute this to my metabolism. I am not very active (who has the time!), so I have no muscle, and I am all bones. Both daughters gained very well, at 95th%. My close friends seemed to have experienced this same phenomenon – losing more weght than they had. I feel bad because I do have some friends that cannot seem to lose, even after working out often. I think it is mostly just genes.

February 13, 2009 at 12:57 am
(16) Jamie says:

When I got pregnant, I was unloading trucks. I had to “eat like a man” to keep weight on but drank only water. After DD was born, I went from a super active lifestyle to sitting on the couch, breastfeeding 24/7. Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t know I no longer needed to eat 24 billion calories anymore. I put on an extra 40 pounds after birth in just a couple months. Upon realizing that fact, I straightened up but still haven’t lost the weight and DD is almost 2. I am still breastfeeding but need to wean in the next 6 months so I can return to school. I’ve also begun a 1800 calorie diet and exercise regime. Wish me luck!

February 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm
(17) teresa says:

Everyone one of us is different is the FIRST thing for any woman reading this to remember.
I gained 35 pds. when I was pregnant and I was on the thin side when I got pregnant.
I have been breast feeding for 6 mths. and the last 10 pds. are just sitting on me. I do a step/aeoribic class 3x/wk and trail walk, practically everyday with my baby, so I am tone and in good shape, overall.
I am 39 yrs. old, which is sure to have an affect on weight too.
I have decided to just enjoy where I am at…women who bare children are truly goddesses and beautiful and blessed…enjoy this phase in your life…you will be back to the size you want to be, when you stop worrying about it, your child is older and you can focus on you again..Right now we are all focusing on our little miracles!

March 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm
(18) Shannon2-24 says:

I had 5 lbs. left from 1st pregnancy.. currently have 4 month baby, and 15 lbs. left from the last pregnancy. I remember it takes awhile to slowly get back down. Hoping to get 20 lbs. (or 25) off after weaning. Plan to nurse until she’s 14-16 mo. I’m eating a healthy {even more than in past} so I’ll see how it goes. Yes! just doing what we can (good foods and active) and know we are beautiful mothers who please God!! I’m looking forward to getting a double stroller and Springtime!! ahhh * more fresh air and sun *

March 20, 2009 at 12:50 am
(19) nikki says:

I gained about 50lbs with each of my pregnancies. AFter my first, I lost it slowly, and was only able to lose that last 10lbs after she was weaned(at 1 year). My second is currently 6mo and I am frustrated at the slow rate of weight loss! It is coming off, but so incredibly slow! I weighed 167 the day she was born and have been sitting at 140 forever now! I have a rough time losing weight while breastfeeding. I have a big appetite and my metabolism is low(not normally). HAving patience is hard,but I am trying to focus on my little ones and not have bad days over the clothes that wouldn’t fit over my butt.

May 4, 2009 at 7:34 pm
(20) Elisabeth says:

I gained 30lbs. with my first pregnancy. I pumped for 4 months and had a really hard time losing the weight. The last 10lbs. stuck on me until after the one yr. mark when I got really serious. I never did lost the last 4! Now I have an 8 month old and gained 50lbs. with this pregnancy. I am nursing like a machine and am stuck at the 145lb. mark. I started at 135 so I have 10lbs. to go. I work out at least 5 times a week and try to watch my sugar, but I am so hungry and have a weekness for sweets. lol. I am dying to be back in the 130′s but figure he will be weaned before that happens! I don’t think nursing has really helped me lose weight at all, I think the working out is what does it for me!

May 14, 2009 at 6:57 am
(21) Gordonfredricks says:

The people are losing their moral while becoming modern. The society needs to be attentive that moral values. Well things needs to be modernized but keeping intact with moral values.
This is proved that breast feeding keeps both mother and child healthy..Mothers milk is the most important component for a child..so we all should encourage breast feeding

Gordonfredricks

February 19, 2010 at 11:58 am
(22) Helena says:

I gained 40 lbs during pregnancy (going from 125-165lbs). I lost 25 of the pounds within the first 2 months. Then completely stopped. I started exercising, still eating about 2000 calories/day, and the rest came off quickly (by 4 months). My baby is now 7 months old and I have had to STOP exercising and start eating more because I am at 112 lbs and needing to put on weight. I have had friends with similar stories and really believe that nursing burns MEGA calories.

August 26, 2010 at 4:43 am
(23) Sheila Canicula says:

In my case, I believe the studies that breastfeeding moms will keep a couple of lbs on for a bit longer than non-breastfeeding moms during their breastfeeding cycle. Most of my friends and I have come to this conclusion as nearly all of us have kept on the extra lbs while breastfeeding. It could be for various reasons (not paying attention to our calories- which is good and necessary, your baby NEEDS nourishment; sleeping less; laying down too much- while breastfeeding that is) but the great and wonderful news is that as soon as our children stopped breastfeeding, the lbs kept shedding like magic (maybe we just gained more exercise time… I dunno). But I also believe that the extra lbs should never deter someone from providing their child with the best nourishment on Earth.

April 18, 2011 at 10:07 am
(24) CuddlyOrang says:

I’ve lost lots of weight whilst breastfeeding, my baby is 7 months old now and I weigh less than I did pre-pregnancy. I’m hungry all the time and eat a lot (not always taking the most healthy choice either). I was around 9 stone pre-pregnancy and now under 8 so the change has been quite dramatic. I do worry that the loss is not healthy and I may be losing muscle weight rather than fat!

June 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm
(25) yogi says:

I havent been able to loose all my weight by breastfeeding. With my first I ate a lot and gained 50 lbs. I lost 20 immediatly, and lost 10 lbs with diet and excercise and took 1.5 yrs to loose the last pounds. With my second I watched my portions but STILL gained 50 lbs (I’ve had 2 ez labors tho, so I wonder if my body is supposed to do this). This time I already knew how to loose the weight so I wasnt worried. I only 10 lbs right away, worked to loose 20 lbs more and still have 20 lbs to go. I’ve tried many methods for weight loss and nothing. Ive done intense excercise with calorie reduction, 1200 cals a lot of times even less. nothing. I just started carb cutting, no sugar, no breads or starchy veggies, no dairy. Nothing!!! Not even half a pound lost. Im only breastfeeding my son at night and will wean him off this week since he is almost a year. We will see if anything changes.

June 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm
(26) Jessica says:

With my son, I lost all the baby weight minus five pounds, and then I stopped nursing when he was 18 months and I was 5 months pregnant. Now my daughter is 2 months old and I have lost all the wight plus another 5 pounds. I didnt try too hard to lose the weight with my son, but this time around Im exercising 5 days a week, and eating relatively healthy with some treats. I imagine that with breastfeeding and working out, im burning at least 700 extra calories a day. And Im already a big girl. Im just hoping that once the pregnancies and breast feeding are over I can lose weight. I also notice I get really hungry while breastfeeding, and I have to have a midnight snack, usually just a banana.

August 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm
(27) Crystal says:

I am not sure anyone reads this forum anymore, but here is my story. I just had my third child, about three weeks ago. I gained 50lbs with all three children and lost most of the weight almost right away. This time though I am on more of a time crunch, well in my mind anyway. I have a wedding coming up, family photos (twice) and a concert all in a month or so from now and I want this weight gone fast. Somehow I lost 25lbs in the first week and a half, baby and fluid I suppose, and now for the last week and a bit I have been sitting at 145lbs. Just sitting. I am nursing almost constantly I eat mostly organic, vegetarian with some fish/shrimp, hardly any dairy, and not too many carbs(good ones only I guess). I don’t know why but I just feel like this last week of staying at the same weight has been an eternity. I don’t want to wait 6 weeks to start working out, frankly because I am just too vain to be seen with this extra poundage on at these events. It seems harder this time to see my body this way after baby, I know I am truly, beyond blessed to have beautiful healthy babies each time, but for some reason it is just so hard to feel so unattractive. This sounds rediculous, but this third time around I just have such a hard time believing I will ever get my body back, baby blues perhaps? Maybe I am not eating enough, I just wanted to vent, basically hoping for some magic to happen overnight and my body is back to its normal shape. Ugh, sorry. Maybe someone will have a perfect remedy for me??? ;)

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