We give you the lowdown on what you can and can’t expect
Breastfeeding burns calories and for some women it’s the easiest way to drop the baby weight fast. But this doesn’t work for every woman. Nutritionist Sarah Coe at the British Nutrition Foundation agrees: “It’s a popular belief that breastfeeding will help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster. Breastfeeding does use up extra fat stored in pregnancy, but how much weight you lose and how fast will depend on how many extra calories you’re eating and how much weight you gained.”
Rosemary Dodds, senior policy advisor at the National Childbirth Trust and a nutritionist advises: “Most women do lose weight naturally while breastfeeding so there’s no rush to start on a diet.” So be kind to yourself and give your body plenty of time to recover from pregnancy, birth, and the exhaustion that comes with having a new baby.
Q. “Do I need extra calories if I’m breastfeeding?”
A. “Women who breastfeed exclusively for the first six months are recommended to have an average extra 330 calories a day, but this will vary and depend on factors such as how much milk is produced and how much fat was stored in pregnancy,” says Sarah Coe.
Q. “Why do some women lose weight quickly but others don’t?”
A. “Women who lose weight easily are in calorie deficit, which means they’re burning body fat to fuel milk production. Others take in more calories than needed, so they won’t lose the weight until they eat less or get back to normal exercise patterns,” says Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietician at the Health Supplements Information Service (www.hsis.org ).
Q. “Can you give tips on eating healthily while breastfeeding?”
A. “Drink plenty as this takes the edge off hunger. Don’t keep indulgent snacks in the house. Healthy snacks include: dried fruit, natural yoghurt, oatcakes and breakfast cereal,” says Dr Ruxton.
Q. “Is it ok to diet while breastfeeding?”
A. “It’s not a good plan to try crash or fad diets. Aim to lose it gradually using healthy eating and slowly increasing your amount of exercise. A loss of no more than 0.5-1 kilo a week is safe for breastfeeding,” says Rosemary Dodds.
Q. “Will breastfeeding give me a flat tummy faster?”
A. “Many women do lose weight while breastfeeding as it burns off calories, but it won’t necessarily flatten your tummy. Exercise is better for shaping your body,” says Rosemary Dodds.
Q. “Can I start exercising when breastfeeding?”
A. “It’s worth waiting until after your six week check-up before taking up exercise that will put stress on joints or muscles,” says Rosemary Dodds.
The best exercise for new mums is a daily walk with your baby – aim for 30-60 minutes – combined with a core muscle strengthening exercise like Pilates.