does breastfeeding really help weight loss?
Image: Today's Parent

Why You May Not Be Losing Weight During Breastfeeding

Debunking the popular myth and why you should still strongly consider it an option.

As soon as you become a mother for the first time, you hear it over and over again. Breastfeeding is the easiest way to lose weight after you have a baby. Time and time again, women all over the world are touting their significant drop in pounds on the scale after deciding to breastfeed. But what happens when you don’t lose that weight? Contrary to popular belief, a lot of women are not experiencing this phenomenon, but instead, gaining weight. According to PopSugar.com, “it’s true that the act of breastfeeding burns calories, in order to make the milk, your body requires energy in the form of, ahem, calories. So, contrary to popular opinion, women need to eat a few hundred extra calories a day to keep up.

Not only that, but pregnant women’s bodies automatically layer on extra fatty tissue — upwards of eight pounds — so they will have enough fat stores to begin breastfeeding. But why is it that some women still see weight gain? According to The Lactation Nutritionist, it may be a number of different factors. You could be eating too little or too little, allowing your body (in any case) to store extra calories. Stress can also play a role. Hormonal activity and your physical exercise levels may be to blame as well.

baby sleep expert advice
Image: Jonathan Borba

Why It Seems Some Women Are Losing The Weight

So why do women seem to magically lose the baby weight from breastfeeding? It’s most likely a lot of factors unrelated to the actual act of nursing. Most often, your prepregnancy fitness plays a key role as does the amount of weight you gain during pregnancy. Also, moderate exercise, sleep, and low levels of stress help with the speeding up of your metabolism. And when you look at the science, you do burn calories when you breastfeed, around 300 – 500 per day. But this doesn’t really mean you’re “losing weight”. Calorie counts don’t look at many things.

For one, women are all extremely different. Between body types, sleep deprivation, eating habits, stress, hormone changes, physical activity, and more, your weight loss or gain could be due to many, many different factors. According to Today’s Parent,

there’s also some evidence that prolactin, the hormone responsible for the production of breastmilk, not only slows down the body’s metabolism of fat but may also act as an appetite stimulant. In a 2004 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers actually found that lactating women retained more weight than non-lactating women, presumably “due to the influence of prolactin on appetite stimulation

Why You Should Still Consider Breastfeeding

While it’s difficult to combat the obvious factors associated with breastfeeding, we still encourage you to do so. There are a million and one incredible benefits of breastfeeding, including the ones we’ve listed from PopSugar.com below.

The Bottom Line

So what if your body hasn’t “bounced back” yet? Maybe your postpartum belly hasn’t gone back down to its original size. Breastfeeding is still an incredible act of giving and if you want to, you should plan to do it long as you want. Your body is strong and healthy, and that’s all that matters. Your body, for nine months or so, grew a tiny human being, and we think that’s pretty amazing. We know that every woman’s postpartum journey is different from other women. You don’t need to put expectations on yourself and your body. Be the incredible mother you were born to be.

three-month breastfeeding crisis
Image: Bianca Cheah

While you’re here, check out our baby sleep expert Chantal Murphy’s guide to why your baby cries

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