By: Tanya Jolliffe, SparkPeople.com healthy eating expert
Breast milk is the ideal first food for your baby. Breastfeeding had been found to help speed recovery after labor for the mom and assists in losing weight gained during pregnancy.
While there are many things moms wish they had known about breastfeeding, one of the most common concerns relates to frustration at not losing all their pregnancy weight. Not eating enough calories is the biggest barrier to weight loss success during breastfeeding. Many times moms incorrectly believe that cutting calories is the key to weight loss after pregnancy. Unfortunately, they forget the human body is designed to protect itself from starvation during times when food isn't readily available. The body burns calories all day long as part of your basal metabolic rate(BMR), because it takes energy (calories) for your body to perform basic physiological functions that are necessary for life-breathing, digesting, circulating, thinking and more. Add to that, normal daily physical activity (bathing, walking, typing and exercising) and you have the energy needs the body requires each day to function normally.
Maternal fat stores serve as a wonderful and constant source of available energy to ensure the body always has the energy it needs to produce milk at the rate and amount a little one requests. The goal in post-pregnancy nutrition is to encourage the body to slightly dip into maternal energy stores each day to meet the increased energy needs. To promote this process, breastfeeding moms should increase their daily calorie intake after delivery by about 500 calories over their pre-pregnancy needs. When you do this, your metabolism can work efficiently and will rely on approximately 250 additional calories each day from the maternal fat stores. This is about the same amount of energy as if you participated in 30 minutes of mild to moderate cardio activity and will ensure a slow, steady weight loss back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
Here are five principles that can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight after delivery while making sure you are producing adequate milk to meet your little one's needs.
- Eat balanced meals and snacks every few hours. Newborns generally eat every few hours, which means your body is using energy to produce milk that often too. Keeping the body supplied with energy and nutrients helps ensure that it never perceives it is "starving" and can continually burn maternal fat stores.
- Drink plenty of water. Breast milk is 50% water, and water is also an important part of the metabolic process. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least eight ounces of water or another healthy beverage after every nursing session around the clock. If you are exercising or it is extremely hot, more will likely be needed to maintain proper hydration levels.
- Hunger cues are the way the body communicates its need for more energy. Do not ignore hunger cues or delay responding, even if you only ate a short time before. Since the body will burn carbohydrates quickly, make sure you also have protein or a serving of healthy fats with your carbohydrates to keep you satisfied.
- Remember that you gained weight slowly and you should lose weight slowly. Don't try to do anything drastic to lose weight faster. Instead, work on establishing healthy eating and fitness habits that will allow you to maintain a healthy rate of weight loss without dieting or feeling hungry or deprived.
- If you are exercising, have a physically demanding or active job, or spend much of your day running around after other children and caring for your home, you may need even more calories than you think. Most times, hunger will help guide your intake to meet these increased needs as you work or care for your family. As long as you are listening to your hunger cues and eating enough to satisfy those cues, you should be meeting your body's needs. If you are not seeing slow, steady weight loss and you are eating more than you did during pregnancy but are also exercising and active, try adding several hundred more nutrient-rich calories for a couple weeks and see how your body responds. We know it seems backwards but with breastfeeding many times, more is less in that more calories consumed means less maternal fat stores needed.
It is important to remember that the goal is to lose the weight gained during pregnancy. If you want to drop below your pre-pregnancy weight, realize that your body may or may not cooperate. If weight loss was difficult before pregnancy, more than likely, you will have trouble both losing additional weight and providing an increasing milk supply as baby grows and demands more. Instead of focusing on losing more weight, consider your return to a pre-pregnancy weight a great success and focus on strength training to increase muscle strength and definition. The added muscle will also help boost your metabolism.
Did you have trouble losing pregnancy weight? Was not eating enough a contributing factor?
More from BabyFit.com:
- 5 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public
- Breastfeeding: Evaluating Your Milk Supply
Breastfeeding: Storing and Handling Breast Milk
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