Does Breastfeeding Really Help You Lose Weight?

How many calories have I burned now? How about now? And now?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it dozens of times.  “I plan to lose weight by breastfeeding”.

As if breastfeeding is some magic diet pill that will melt the pounds from your body at every feeding.  I’m even guilty of saying it even though I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about.

Is breastfeeding weight loss as real as the sixty pounds I packed on or is it a figment of the imaginations of postpartum women desperate to lose weight the world over?  I figured I’d do a little research on the matter and let you know what I come up with.

A study published in the Journal of American Dietician Association shows breastfeeding burns over 600 calories for women who don’t supplement with formula.  Okay, I can dig that.  That’s way more than I’d burn in an hour on the treadmill.  The study also shows mothers who breastfeed had significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and were less above their pre-pregnancy weights at one month postpartum than mothers who fed formula exclusively.

Excellent.  But one study wasn’t doing it for me.  And then I found this:

This is an area that has not been well studied, though in the book, “Nutrition during Lactation,” by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences (1991) this topic is briefly addressed, but no conclusions are drawn. Though most women do lose weight gradually during lactation, it was noted that one study showed that 22 percent of women actually experienced weight gain. The authors of this study concluded that breastfeeding alone does not guarantee weight loss. (Manning-Dalton & Allen 1983).

In the book, “Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding,” author Eileen Behan, RD, shares the results of a study of 1,423 women presented at the First European Congress on Obesity (1988). Behan states, “The strongest predictor for weight retention was how much mothers gained while pregnant; women who gained more than the recommended amount had a harder time getting it off. Older mothers retained more weight than younger moms. There were larger variations in weight gains and loses, but the bottom line was that breastfeeding alone does not guarantee weight loss.”

If that’s true I am certainly screwed.  I gained sixty pounds, y’all.  SIXTY POUNDS.  Have you heard of anyone gaining more than that?  I’ve lost about twenty-five pounds and I seem to have stalled at a weight of 159 pounds.  My usual weight is 125-ish.  While I don’t expect to sit around breastfeeding and lose weight, I wanted to know if there really was something to all this talk of magical weight loss while breastfeeding.

After reading hundreds of comments from women all over the web I have concluded that while breastfeeding does help burn calories, it also keeps a little bit of fat on your body because, while you’re pregnant, your body automatically layers on extra fatty tissue so you’ll have enough fat stores to begin and support breastfeeding.  So whether or not breastfeeding makes a big difference for you is debatable.  In the same way every single pregnancy is completely different, I think every mother’s breastfeeding experience varies.  We all have different metabolisms and body types so who knows?

I’m interested in hearing your experience and what you think.  I’m trying to eat right, walk a couple miles a week and I’m still breastfeeding so I wonder when I can realistically expect to get back to my pre-baby weight?  Six months?  A year?  I guess I need to take my age into account as well.  34 is no spring chicken for having babies.  Hell, it ain’t even a summer chicken, is it?  So tell me!  What is your breastfeeding weight gain, weight loss story.


Article Posted 6 years Ago

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