Breastfeeding and Exercise: Losing Weight Safely

How to lose weight safely while breastfeeding

Posted by lindsay wright

Hi mamas!

Today is the second and final installment in our discussion about exercising while breastfeeding.  Two weeks ago, I described tips for the LOGISTICAL side of nursing and exercising.  Today, we’re going to discuss the NUTRITION aspect of maintaining a good milk supply, while getting back into your fitness routine.  You're already burning around 500 extra calories a day simply by breastfeeding!  Add exercise and you'll be a fat-burning machine!

I realize that most of you new moms are EAGER to regain your former figure.  After nine months of a roller coaster ride, you’re ready to be back in control.  I totally understand.  What I think is most important is that you remember the old adage (which, yes, doesn’t apply to everyone, but is a good rule nonetheless!):

“It takes nine months to put it on.  It takes nine months to take it off.”

There are so many differing views about how to go about losing weight in the first place.  Throw in the wrench of having to provide food for your baby and it can be a bit daunting.  Here’s what you need to know before embarking on your “new nursing mom” fitness journey!



Slow to Start

Take your time losing this weight!  I don’t mean a year or five, but the temptation lies in losing weight the quickest way possible.  For most women, that means an extremely low-calorie diet and heavy exercise.  DON’T DO THIS!  Your body needs to EASE back into exercise after birth, regardless of whether you nurse or not.  For a nursing mother, you’ll still need to consume enough calories to ensure adequate milk supply.  A heavily restricted diet will only backfire on you!

Start slow and see how your body will react.  In most cases, nursing mothers need not do anything extra to lose weight – the act of breastfeeding will be enough.

Consume Adequate Calories

Studies have shown that most healthy breastfeeding women maintain an abundant milk supply while taking in 1800-2200 (or more) calories per day.  Consuming less than 1500-1800 calories per day (most women should stay at the high end of this range) may put your milk supply at risk, as may a sudden drop in caloric intake [source].  The most important thing you need to do is to listen to your body.  If you’re hungry, eat something, but make sure it’s loaded with high quality macronutrients, vitamins and minerals (think: fresh veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and lean animal protein–organic if possible).  For an exercising mother, you’ll want to stay toward the higher range of calorie consumption – your body will be burning calories around the clock.

Get Your Nutrients

According to Livestrong, “It's important to get a good variety of vitamins and minerals when breastfeeding, since you are supplying your infant with all of his needs as well as your own. Important nutrients for a nursing mother include vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iodine, iron, folate, vitamin D and calcium. Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains will usually supply all that mother and baby need, but some mothers choose to continue taking a prenatal vitamin while nursing.”

Continue taking your prenatal vitamin or consider switching to a women’s daily multivitamin to fill in the gaps in your diet.

Guzzle Water

Aim for more than 64 ounces of liquid per day!  Without adequate liquid intake, your body has a hard time producing quality milk.  Liquids should come in the form of water, milk, and juice.  Caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as they not only pass to the infant through breast milk, but also have a diuretic effect for the mother.  Water is best and aids in proper hydration, which aids your metabolism, prevents headaches and water retention, eases joint pains and reduces appearance of wrinkles.

Another tip?  Invest in a water bottle with a STRAW.  You’ll drink more water without even realizing it.  My favorite:  the Camelbak water bottle!


Listen & Relax

Know this: Your body was MADE to produce milk and you really don’t have to do that much extra for nature to run its course.  All the tips above are important, yes, but even without doing anything extra, your body will find a way to produce milk, usually pulling resources from the mother’s body to do so.  Just relax, listen to your body, and nurture yourself.

Choosing to exercise is already going to make your feel leaps and bounds better, both mentally and physically.  No need to add any extra stress right now.


Best of luck on your nursing adventure!!  I loved those years and hope to have many more to come!

For more fitness and health tips, please visit my healthy living blog, Lindsay’s List, and join in on the fun at the LL Facebook page, where I host giveaways and weekly workouts!


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