Breastfeeding for Weight loss?: What really works

You want to know what I “love”? I “love” it when celebrity moms show up on red carpet events two to three weeks postpartum looking skinny and toned and when asked about how they lost the weight, they pull the “just breastfeeding card.”Really? Let me get this straight, you dropped 50 pounds, managed to get super defined legs and abs in three weeks just by breastfeeding?In pulling the “just breastfeeding card,” these celebrities also make it a big point to say they didn’t do it through their assumed usual ways of, oh, I don’t know eating nothing but fennel soup, detoxing,  and exercising for hours on end.

And, while the breastfeeding advocate in me salivates at their promotion of breastfeeding to mainstream audiences, the formerly breastfeeding mom in me knows that their promotion of breastfeeding as a diet is, at best, well, misleading.

Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories and can lead to weight loss, but, and as the millions of mothers out there who breastfed their children until preschool and are still carrying around their baby weight will very quickly tell you, it doesn’t always work that way. Breastfeeding is not a magic pill (sorry, if I just broke your heart).

I lost all 40+ pounds of my baby weight from my first pregnancy within six months, not three weeks. Breastfeeding was a big part of my weight loss, but it wasn’t the only part. The other parts, or how I used breastfeeding to increase my weight loss postpartum are included below by way of some tips.

Breastfeed your baby on-demand. Breastfeeding can burn between 600- 700 calories a day. In order to best take advantage of it’s natural calorie burning properties, and to keep your baby happy and gaining weight (which are very important) you should always, always feed your baby on cue, or own demand. Scheduled feedings not only limit your natural calorie burning potential but they negatively impact your milk supply, and, thus, your baby’s happiness. hehehehe.

Breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of your child’s life. When you begin to supplement your baby’s feedings with other things (formula, cereal, etc.), your weight loss potential decreases, mainly because you aren’t burning as many calories as before. Exclusive breastfeeding has other great benefits to your baby, too, like a decreased risk of infections, food allergies, etc.

Eat lots of proteins and complex carbohydrates. Breastfeeding hunger is an ugly, ugly monster with two heads and bad breath. It’s a monster that will roar all day long unless tamed with good foods like lean meats, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, fruits, and veggies.  While pizza buffets and Doritos are OK sometime, you’ll find that in eating these things, you’ll be hungrier sooner and have only more love handles to show for it. Really.

Eat when you are hungry. When you are breastfeeding, it is not the time to skip meals or diet. Doing so only increases the toxicity levels in your milk and will cause your body to hold on to the fat that it thinks it needs in order to make breastfeeding possible. The key is to eat when you are hungry, not bored or tired or stressed (emotions which happen often in motherhood), but when you are genuinely hungry.

Eat more at the front end of your day, rather than the back end. A reader and dear friend, Lucy of the blog Lucille in the Sky, suggested this to me in a comment on this blog. And, boy am I thankful that she did. By eating more for breakfast and lunch and making wise snacking choices during the day, I was less hungry by night when my body naturally began burning less calories.

Do moderate exercise (cardio and strength training). I know what you’re thinking, “What the— But, I don’t have the time!” But, oh, you do. You just have to decide to make the time. I thought I didn’t have time either, until I figured out how to exercise with my baby. I would walk in the morning, or if the weather was bad, I would turn on Exercise TV, strap my daughter in a Moby Wrap, and do an at-home walking workout that I would highly recommend by Leslie Samsone. Walking alone helped me in the first four months to lose 90% of my baby weight. The final 10% or 10 pounds, well, they were stubborn. To get rid of them, I had to add a strength training regimen into the mix. I was (and still am) too cheap to buy a gym membership, so again I did a workout (every other day) on Exercise TV called 10 pound slim down by Chris Freytag. It’s a 30-day program that works.

Drink lots and lots of water. Hydrating yourself while breastfeeding is important, not just for weight loss but for a lot more. When I was breastfeeding, I aimed to drink at least 8 glasses of water.

Get lots of sleep (when you can). As hard as it was, I eventually had to give into the idea of sleeping while my baby slept. It was really the only way. Co-sleeping with my baby also saved me from having to deal with all the night wakings.

Don’t stress. Most people eat more when stressed because stress produces “protective” hormones in your body (Cortisol and Adrenaline) that cause you to feel, over time, very hungry.  As a mom (breastfeeding or not), you should make it a priority to de-stress in the best way you know how (of course, other than eating).

Don’t focus on the scale. The scale is not always your friend when you are breastfeeding. It may, even with all these changes, show the same number over and over and over again, even though you know by looking in the mirror that you’ve lost weight. It is for this reason that rather than focusing on numbers, focus on how your clothes are fitting. The numbers will fix themselves, usually, when you wean your baby.

Enjoy breastfeeding. This is the most important tip! I’ve seen the forums of moms pumping x amount of milk a day (beyond what their baby needs) in order to accelerate their weight loss. And, while I respect that approach, in my opinion, there’s more to be gained by taking the more traditional approach of feeding-your-baby-when-he’s-hungry. Rather than focusing on how to use breastfeeding to lose weight, it helps to focus on feeding and nourishing your baby and taking care of yourself. By doing these things, you will lose the weight in time. Really. Just be patient and enjoy breastfeeding your baby.

Moms: Did you lose weight through breastfeeding? Please do share your experiences with other readers. Any tips that you can add? What do you think of celebrity moms’ promotion of breastfeeding for weight loss?