The only time a woman sees weight gain as a positive thing is when she’s pregnant! During pregnancy, your body makes a lot of adjustments to prepare for the arrival of the new baby as well as its nourishment in the early months. One of these is the accumulation of fat – yes, your body’s doing it on purpose! But when we look at that extra flab in mirror, the health benefits are the last thing on our minds. All we want to know is how we can get rid of those love handles and lose weight while breastfeeding!
Nearly all parenting articles and breastfeeding advocates talk about breastfeeding as if it were a magic pill. They make it look like breastfeeding will just make all those extra kilos melt away. However, the reality is that it rarely happens like that! If you look around, you find that many women actually gain weight after childbirth, mainly due to eating the wrong kinds of foods.
The Science behind Weight Loss and Breastfeeding
Like we said, pregnancy changes your body in many ways, especially your hormones. The most important one among them is prolactin, a hormone that helps you make milk. But prolactin also has another role – holding on to all that pregnancy fat! Prolactin stores the excess fat for the nursing mother as insurance against famine so that the baby’ll always have milk. This is especially high during the first six months, which is why metabolism is slow and and weight loss is hard during this time. Crash dieting gives the body a ‘famine message’, making it hold on to the fat even more, so skipping meals is not an option!
The best thing to do in this situation is to eat the right kinds of food, while ensuring there are enough extra calories to make milk for your baby. Here are some more tips to ensure that only baby gets chubbier with breastfeeding, not Mommy!
10 Tips to Lose Weight while Breastfeeding
1. Be Realistic
This is the first and foremost thing to remember! It took nine months to put on all this weight, so prepare to give yourself 9-12 months to get rid off it. Because of prolactin, you might not see any difference in the first 6 weeks too. Besides the weight, your body’s shape has changed, your hips are wider, rib cage is higher and so on. There is also excess fat in different places, so learn to appreciate your new body – it just grew and delivered a baby, and is now nourishing it!
2. Stock up Right
It’s important to ensure that you have only healthy food in the house. If not, you might just pick up anything and eat in your chronically sleep deprived state! When buying food for yourself, focus on nutrition and not calories. You’re going to feel a good deal hungrier, so stock up on healthy snacks like popcorn, veggie sticks, hummus, fruit and whole wheat crackers. Completely avoid refined grains and stick to whole grain pasta, rice and flour.
3. Eat Frequently
Newborns feed every 2-3 hours, which means you feel hungry just as often. So target about 6 small meals a day rather than 3 large ones. Leaving a long gap between meals will affect your milk supply. Besides, you’ll end up getting irritated and can end up overeating at your next meal.
4. Have a Balanced Meal
During the postpartum phase, your body needs a lot of nutrients, so don’t skip any food group. Fill half your plate with veggies – you can have it any way, raw or cooked. While you shouldn’t avoid carbs, you can reduce the amount and stick to whole grain. Have lots of lean protein and healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
5. Insert a Workout Everyday
As soon as you get the doctor’s okay regarding exercise, try to insert a small workout everyday. At the beginning, it’s hard to get 30 minutes at a stretch, so opt for 10 minutes three times a day, preferably after the baby’s fed and sleeping. A walk is perfect to start with. It’s also a great way for a new Mom to get some baby-free time to clear her head. Be sure to include stretches and avoid high intensity workouts as they can affect milk supply. Once your baby’s feeds are farther apart, you can start a 3o minute workout – a brisk walk or light aerobics.
6. Lift Weights
Many women get ready to run to lose weight, but very few understand the importance of lifting weights! Prolactin lowers your metabolism, so you need good muscle power to build it back up. Lifting weights is low impact, makes you toned and stronger – essential to lift your little one as he grows!
7. Avoid too many Sweets
You’re bound to get many visitors during this time, and they’re likely to come bearing gifts. But be careful if these gifts are of the sweet kind! While lactation laddus, cookies and halwa are good for your milk, have a little discretion when eating them – they’re often packed with ghee and sugar. For best results, avoid keeping too many sweets at home in the first place!
8. Drink lots of Water
Breastfeeding is a very dehydrating process, so be sure you have a drink whenever you sit down to nurse. Drinking water also helps boost the metabolism and keeps you from overeating. If you’re working out, if it’s very hot or you find yourself sweating a lot, be sure to up your water intake, lest your milk supply might slow down.
8. Get lots of Rest
You’re tired of hearing ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, but there really is no other way, is there? The mother of a newborn can count her total hours of sleep on one hand. While there’s not much you can do in the initial weeks, it’s good to get our baby used to a bedtime routine from day one. This will help establish good sleep habits for later and you’ll soon be able to sleep through the night. And don’t use the baby’s nap time to catch up on social media!
10. Lose the Stress
What is the one common thing that can ruin both your milk supply and your weight loss efforts? You’re right, it’s stress! Whatever you do will not help to lose weight while breastfeeding if you’re not in a relaxed state of mind. Take a few minutes a day to pray or meditate and release all the tension. One thing you can do for the first 2-3 months is to hire someone to cook, clean and do laundry. This frees you up to focus only on your baby and yourself and you can use this critical time to bond and recuperate. Never mind if the work isn’t perfect; trust us, a shoddily vacuumed carpet is completely worth a happy Mama and baby!
At the end of the day, when Mom’s happy, baby’s happy and so is the rest of the family. Remember that what goes in comes out; when you eat clean, good food, you make better quality milk for your baby. Soon you’ll find that you’re beginning to look less flabby, have more definition and your skin and hair are glowing. You’ll also be in a much better mood with more energy to play with your baby as she grows. Be consistent and stick to the plan; you’re sure to reap rewards in the long run!