If you’re not losing weight while breastfeeding, here are 9 possible reasons why, plus tips and tricks to help you through it!
If you’re a first time mom, you’re sure to have lots of questions about the postpartum period.
You may wonder about postpartum recovery.
Or, worry about how to get your newborn to sleep at night.
Another common concern is how long it will take to lose the baby weight!
When you’re a new mom, you may expect breastfeeding to kick weight loss into high gear, but that isn’t always the case.
The stresses of caring for your first baby, hormone levels, and other physical conditions may prevent weight loss even when exclusively nursing.
Below, are 9 common reasons you may not lose weight while breastfeeding, plus healthy habits to overcome them.
Is it possible to lose weight while breastfeeding?
It is possible to lose weight while breastfeeding, but the journey isn’t the same for every woman. And some women may not lose weight until after their baby is weaned.
Postpartum weight loss depends on several factors. And not all of them are within a woman’s control.
If it’s taking longer than you’d like to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, or you’re not losing any weight at all, you may be dealing with one or more of the obstacles, below.
Reasons You Might Not Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
1. Your body needs a little more time.
If you’re still in the early days of postpartum, wait until the 3-month mark to focus on weight loss.
This is usually when your milk supply and your baby’s appetite sync up. Before then, you’ll likely experience cluster feeding, engorgement, and leaky boobs.
Once your body figures out the proper balance of supply and demand, you may see a natural uptick in weight loss.
2. You’re not eating enough.
Your body relies on fat stores for the production of breast milk.
So without enough calories, you may go into starvation mode.
This is when the body hoards fat stores to make sure there’s enough energy to carry out essential functions.
After 3 months, a small calorie deficit is okay, but you should take in at least 1500 to 1800 calories per day to maintain your milk supply and keep your body happy.
Calorie restriction can also increase cortisol levels. More on that, below!
3. You’re eating too much.
On the other hand, you may be eating too much!
Overeating can lead to stalled weight loss or even weight gain.
As many women know, breastfeeding burns calories (between 550 to 670 calories per day), but that’s not enough to offset excessive food intake.
Make sure you’re maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. And avoid empty calories!
4. You’re under too much stress.
Elevated stress levels may lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands regulate hormones. But when they become overworked, the process dysregulates.
This often results in increased cortisol levels, which makes it hard to lose weight, especially around the midsection.
The body uses cortisol hormones to convert fats and proteins into energy. But too much cortisol encourages fat retention.
And you may also crave sugary and fatty junk food.
5. You’re not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep can exacerbate adrenal fatigue and interfere with the appetite-regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin.
During sleep, leptin levels increase, which signals the brain to stop triggering hunger cues.
And, ghrelin levels decrease, which tells the body you have enough energy and you don’t need to keep eating.
However, without enough sleep, leptin levels decrease, signaling the body to eat and store the calories as fat.
And ghrelin levels increase, which tells your body that it’s hungry, to stop burning calories, and to hold onto extra pounds.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is common with a new baby.
If you’re struggling to establish a healthy sleep schedule these newborn sleep tips can help!
6. You’re not getting enough physical activity.
For many women, it may be hard to lose weight without exercise.
However, there are several barriers to physical activity for new moms.
First, it’s important to avoid rigorous exercise until the 6-week mark.
And after that, it may be difficult to get back into regular physical activity due to postpartum body changes.
Your body certainly feels different after giving birth.
For example, you may have decreased muscle mass or diminished core strength due to ab separation.
On top of that, it’s hard to find time to move your body with a newborn.
If you’re struggling to find time to exercise, or don’t know where to start, we’ve included some helpful tips and tricks, below.
We’ve mentioned several hormones that are important when trying to lose weight.
And prolactin is yet another hormone to note.
It’s responsible for milk production. But, it may also hurt weight loss.
This hormone may increase appetite and suppresses adiponectin. Adiponectin is another hormone responsible for giving us energy and a faster metabolism.
With lower energy levels and increased appetite, moms may have a hard time shedding extra pounds until their babies are weaned.
8. Low milk supply
Research indicates that women who have a harder time producing milk may also have a harder time losing weight while breastfeeding.
There are many reasons why a new mom may not produce an adequate milk supply.
But, a condition called hypoplasia/insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), may have a stronger relationship with breastfeeding and an inability to lose extra weight.
If you’re struggling with milk supply, you can find helpful resources in this post on how long it takes to refill breast milk.
Women who experience postpartum depression may also have a hard time losing weight while breastfeeding.
Postpartum depression may manifest in several different ways, including:
- Extreme sadness
- Intense loneliness or withdrawal
- Insomnia, severe fatigue, and lack of energy
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Intense anger or rage
- Self-harm or suicidal ideation
- Belief that your baby would be better of without you
- Inability to bond with your baby
Several of these symptoms may impede weight loss.
But, more importantly, they are harmful to both mother and baby.
While PPD is very common, and nothing to be ashamed of, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider right away to get the help you need.
Tips for Losing Weight (Without Losing Your Supply!)
Despite all of these obstacles, many women can lose weight while breastfeeding. Though it may take some trial and error to figure out what your unique body needs.
Here are some smart tips for how to lose weight while breastfeeding (without losing your supply)!
Create a Modest Calorie Deficit
After 3 months, you can work on establishing a modest calorie deficit to start losing weight.
In doing so, keep in mind that breastfeeding moms need around 500 extra calories per day (or 300 if breastmilk isn’t the only source of nutrition for your baby).
And you should aim for a gradual weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week.
Here’s a simple formula to help you determine the caloric intake you need each day to lose weight while breastfeeding:
|((Body Weight (pounds) x 12) + 500) – 250|
- Multiply your body weight by 12-14 to determine how many calories you need to maintain your current body weight.
- Then, add 500 calories to account for breastfeeding.
- Finally, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to create a modest caloric deficit of about 250 calories.
It’s also important to avoid empty calories. You should focus on a healthy diet and select nutritious foods from all food groups.
Healthy foods include lean protein, whole grains, low-sugar fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and plenty of water.
Avoid fad diets or any diet that encourages you to restrict foods from any food group unless your doctor tells you to.
If you have a hard time drinking enough water while breastfeeding (at least 2 liters of water per day), try using a water bottle with markings to indicate how much water to drink at each hour of the day.
RELATED: How I Broke my Weight-Loss Plateau
We’ve talked about the difficulties new moms may experience with increasing their activity level.
But, there are a few things to make it easier.
First, try to do exercises with your baby! This can kill two birds with one stone. You’ll be able to move your body while also bonding with and entertaining your child.
- You can take your baby for a walk.
- You can put your baby in a baby carrier while you do light bodyweight exercises.
- Or, you can do exercises on the floor while your baby has tummy time.
If that’s not enough, you can also:
- Get a workout buddy to help keep you accountable.
- Join a fitness club with childcare.
- Try a HIIT class – these help you burn calories quickly (so your workout can be shorter).
- Start an at-home exercise program during naps or before your baby wakes up/after she goes to sleep .
Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
Along with watching your calories and exercising, focus on living a more healthy lifestyle. This may look different from woman to woman.
But here are a few key things to work on:
- Try to get enough sleep.
- Do things that help you destress (stress hormones don’t do. any favors for the body)!
- Address mental health concerns
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have a support system, use it!
This will make all of your efforts easier and your goals more attainable.
RELATED: Six Months Postpartum Update (How to Lose Baby Weight)
Other Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks
Now that we’ve covered everything to know about losing weight while breastfeeding, here are some breastfeeding tips to make nursing easier.
- A good nipple cream like Lansinoh Lanolin
- Disposable nursing pads or reusable nursing pads
- A silicone breast pump
- An electric pump like the speCtra or Elvie pump
- Nursing tanks and tops
- Underwire-free nursing bras
- Breastmilk storage bags and bottles
- A good nursing pillow
- Nipple shields (great for treating lipstick nipple latch)
- A Nursing cover that hooks around the neck
If you’re hoping to build a breast milk stash, try using the Haakaa pump! It’s an easy way for a nursing mom to collect extra milk without a lot of extra effort.
You can also use the Haakaa pump to relieve clogged ducts and increase milk supply.
If you have leftover breastmilk that you can’t or don’t want to give to your baby, there are several other uses for it that might surprise you.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Create a soothing breastmilk bath for baby.
- Use it to treat sunburns, bug bites, and diaper rash.
- Use it to heal sore nipples.
- Create breastmilk jewelry.
- Donate it to milk banks.
If your milk has a soapy taste that your baby refuses, you’re likely dealing with high lipase milk. Here’s how to scald high lipase breast milk to remove the funky taste.
RELATED: 20 Important Things to Know About Breastfeeding
Some women may not be able to lose weight until after their baby is weaned. But, before you give up, here are some things you can try:
– Make sure you’re getting the right balance of calories. Too many, or too few calories may both cause weight gain.
– Lower your stress levels and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
– Address mental health issues like postpartum depression.
– Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine
his may be different for each woman. But, in general, you can look for weight loss to start around the 3-month mark. This is when the milk supply regulates, and your body may be more willing to let go of unneeded fat stores.
The body relies on fat stores to produce breast milk. So, if you don’t eat enough calories or your milk supply is low, your body is more likely to hold onto extra fat.
Additionally, if you’re under too much stress, your body may experience increased cortisol levels which also encourages fat retention.
This will be different for every woman.
How long it takes and how much weight you lose depends on several factors including your starting weight, how many and what kind of calories you eat, your hormones, and activity level.
New moms should focus on gradual weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week.
With diligent effort, it may take several months to a year to get back to your pre-baby weight.
If this post was helpful, be sure to check out:
- The latest breastfeeding statistic and facts
- 15+ Newborn baby hacks
- 3 First time mom books worth a read
- 35 Genius mom hacks
- 115 First birthday party ideas
- 23 Creative monthly baby photo ideas
Did we answer all of your questions about not losing weight while breastfeeding? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!