The simple answer to this question is yes, but there are a few things to be considered which I will discuss throughout this post. Many women believe that breastfeeding helps them lose some of the baby weight while others do not notice a huge difference. I, like many women was anxious to start losing weight and get back into shape after having my son. Yet, breastfeeding was important to me and I wanted to try my best with it. I knew that I could lose weight and continue to breastfeed but I also knew that the weight loss would probably not happen as fast as I wanted it too.
Losing weight while breastfeeding is possible but you do not want to restrict your calories too much and the rate at which you lose weight should also be limited. Studies showed that women who had more than a 30% reduction in caloric intake did experience a decrease in milk production and infant weight gain decreased as well. Dr. Clapp states, “There has to be a reasonable balance between a lactating women’s energy intake and energy expenditure.”
I was often more hungry while I was breastfeeding (especially the first few months) than I ever was pregnant. Believe it or not, you also need more calories when you are breastfeeding. You need an average of 300 extra calories a day while pregnant (again this can vary depending on your activity level, pre-pregnancy weight etc. Check with your OBGYN for specific recommendations). The ACOG recommends 450-500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding! So if you are exercising on top of breastfeeding you must make sure you are getting enough calories. (Specific nutrition recommendations while breastfeeding will be covered in a different post.)
A common concern of many women might be how exercise can affect milk production. A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “high-intensity running during lactation did not impair the quantity or quality of breast milk.” However if you feel that your supply is decreasing as your exercise amount and intensity is increasing, then back off the exercise a bit to see if your supply returns as of course the exercise threshold is variable among each woman.
Make sure to follow these tips when returning to exercise while breastfeeding.
1. To avoid volume depletion you must drink plenty of water throughout the day. This is important even when you are not exercising but even more so as you start to workout again. Recommendation of quantity of water varies as women will need different amounts so using urine as a guide, the clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are.
2. Extremely intense anaerobic exercise such as HIIT workouts or other type of interval workouts can alter the taste of breast milk and cause a sour taste due to the lactic acid build-up. If you find that your baby does not like to nurse after a high intensity workout, nurse or pump prior to the workout (which would honestly probably be more comfortable anyway) or change the time of your workout based on your baby’s feeding schedule.
3. If you find that your baby does not like to nurse after a workout it could also be maternal odor or sweat. Again, feed just prior to your workout or take a quick shower before nursing.
4. Find a good supportive bra. It is likely your breasts will still be a larger size than normal so make sure you are comfortable while working out. Invest in a few quality sport bras.
Next week I will discuss some of the hormonal changes while trying to lose weight and breastfeed.
As always, I welcome questions or comments.
National Institute Health
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, Dr. James Clapp