Do you lose weight while breastfeeding? - Idaho Jones
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Do you lose weight while breastfeeding?

If you are wondering if it’s okay to lose weight while breastfeeding, our answer is a resounding yes!  

Many women are eager to return to their pre-pregnancy weight and figure after they give birth. You want your old body back for a number of reasons, sure. For one, because it’s beautiful. That’s how you got here with a baby, isn’t it? For another, you want it back because it’s your identity wrapped up in it. And you’ve gone through so many changes, morphing through pregnancy and childbirth like a shape shifter. It can be hard to recognize yourself in your postpartum state! Your body is inextricably tied up with your sense of who you are. With your confidence. Your body is what you wear when you meet the world, and you want it back.


Well, we have good news for you: You can lose weight while breastfeeding.*


But put it in perspective, mama. We believe it’s important to have realistic, healthy expectations and to not lose track of what matters. You are deserving of honor and respect no matter your weight. A couple of things to remember:

  • You just gave birth and you are nursing. Or maybe you’re pumping. Same difference. In our book that makes you kind of a goddess. Go easy on yourself. Honor and respect this new body of yours, whatever your weight.
  • It took months to gain all that pregnancy weight and you won’t shed it overnight, nor should you.


First of all, expect to lose around 12-13 pounds or so upon giving birth

Why that number?  It’s the weight of a typical baby along with the placenta and amniotic fluid (plus some blood, sweat, and tears for good measure).  If you gained somewhere around 25 to 35 pounds with your pregnancy, as generally recommended, you could be almost halfway to a third of the way toward your goal on day one. Wow. Congratulations!


Second: It takes in the vicinity or upwards of 500 calories per day to make the milk needed to grow a baby.

One pound equals 3500 calories. Do the math: If you make no other effort and simply return to your pre-pregnancy diet (assuming that it was healthy), you would lose about a pound per week, at least in theory.


Another bit of good news: Nipple stimulation, like the kind that occurs when you breastfeed or pump, causes uterine contractions. These postpartum contractions work to shrink your uterus and help it regain its pre-pregnancy size and shape. It’s a win for everyone.


Health professionals recommend a nursing mother eat upwards of 1800 calories per day at a minimum and not lose more than 1.5 to 2 pounds max per week. No crash or fad diets at this time—it’s just not healthy. You have other priorities. Speaking of which, your body will prioritize making rich, nutritious milk for your baby at all costs. It’s the mother who becomes nutritionally depleted when she is dieting too hard, and your baby needs you to be healthy and on your A-game.


Add in a little bit of exercise. You will feel great and speed up your metabolism and weight loss. Walk with your baby, either pushing a stroller or “wearing” her in a carrier, wrap, or sling. If you exercised regularly before your pregnancy and had a normal, vaginal delivery with no complications, you can begin walks when your body tells you to. If you had a c-section, or other complications, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations about when to resume mild exercise (typically after 6 weeks).


Remember: In most cases, there’s no need to diet. Just opt for low-carb, nutritionally dense foods, (What to eat during breastfeeding) leaving out the junk foods and empty calories. Stay hydrated.  You’re on your way!

* And now for an important caveat: We recognize that for some women weight loss is a real struggle that can send them hurtling on an emotional rollercoaster. If you are unable to love yourself in your new mom body, we urge you to put away the scale and seek support from a mental health professional. Be kind to yourself. 


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