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Does breastfeeding really help you lose weight?

Truth: Breastfeeding burns about 300-500 calories per day, or 20 calories for every 1 ounce of breast milk. However, the belief that the weight just falls off from nursing just isn’t the reality for all women, as some women actually gain weight when they breastfeed.

If the average mother is burning around 350+ calories a day just from breast feeding, why isn’t more moms back to their pre-baby weight and why are some moms gaining weight?

#1. Breastfeeding is widely regarded as a licence to eat “cake” because of the misconception that, “breastfeeding makes the fat melt away.”

#2. Breastfeeding mothers tend to feel hungrier. Prolactin, a hormone regulating breast milk production, is released each time you nurse, which increases your appetite.

#3. Most breastfeeding mothers live in fear of their milk supply drying up, so they eat and rest more, as a means of ramping up milk production.

#4. Sleep deprivation, a common side-effect of having a baby, increases the “hunger hormones” leptin and ghrelin, prompting cravings for sweet, salty and starchy food.

#5. Breastfeeding is also a sedentary business, plus most new moms are too exhausted to exercise.

So how do you lose weight while breastfeeding?

#1. Track your calories in an app such as MyFitnessPal everyday for a minimum of 6 weeks. You might need to play with your calories a bit until you find the perfect balance between losing weight and keeping your milk supply up.

You can also use this generic formula to figure out how many calories you need per day to lose weight and still keep your milk supply up:

Sedentary: current body weight x 10 +350 = total calories per day

Somewhat active: current body weight x 11 + 350 = total calories per day

Active: current body weight x 12 + 350 = total calories per day.

Start with that number and every few days/week add or subtract 50-100 calories depending on your milk supply and weight loss.

#2. Drink a minimum of half of your body weight in ounces of water a day.

#3. Exercise at least 3 times a week.

#4. Be patient. It took 10 months to grow a baby, you won’t bounce back in just a few short weeks or months.

The bottom line is, even though breastfeeding burns calories, nursing isn’t the golden ticket to your pre-baby body. Studies show breastfeeding mothers only lose 1-2 lbs more pounds than non-lactating moms.

The biggest factor when it comes to getting your pre-baby body back is not breastfeeding, but how much weight you gained during pregnancy. However, if you pair a healthy lifestyle (working out and managing your calories) with breastfeeding, it will help you slim down to your pre-pregnancy body more quickly.

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