A common mistake many women make after having a baby is to start a diet and try to lose that pregnancy weight right away. Hollywood moms do this all the time right? So why not you? The answer is that under eating or over exercising or both puts a lot of stress on your body. Your body will often respond by cutting milk production because your body is hardwired to value your health in times of stress over the health of your baby. Cutting breast milk production is a simple action the body can take to preserve calories – which kind of defeats the purpose of dieting, doesn’t it?
If you are a breastfeeding mom, it is essential that you are eating enough food for your body to produce breast milk. Many women do not know this, but you need to eat more for breastfeeding than you had to for pregnancy! It is recommended that pregnant women eat an extra 300 calories a day, whereas breastfeeding mothers need 500 additional calories a day. Remember, your baby may be small but your baby is growing and needs to get a lot of calories to grow and develop – baby gets those calories from you! Be sure not to skip meals. Eat healthy food that’s balanced in fats, carbs and protein. Avoid chips, excessive sweets, and foods with low nutritional value. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying you cannot combine dieting and breastfeeding successfully. But if you are struggling with low milk supply, be sure you are getting plenty of milk-making nutrition and get your milk supply to where you want it before you begin a diet and exercise routine. Once your supply is established and your doctor has cleared you for exercise go ahead and lose that pregnancy weight. Just keep your weight loss to about one pound a week and your supply will be fine. On days that you exercise be sure to drink extra water and pay close attention to your milk supply – if it seems that your supply is down after vigorous exercise you’ll have to find a balancing point between the right amount of exertion to lose fat, but not lose milk.
Some resources also caution when dieting and breastfeeding to avoid rapid weight loss because the fat that is burned can release large amounts of toxins into your system that may overwhelm your liver and kidneys and may make their way to your breast milk. I have not seen any research to back up these claims, but it’s another reason to take a slow and steady approach to dieting.
To sum up: dieting and breastfeeding can go together, but not if you are experiencing low milk supply. Fix your supply first, then begin dieting. Keep weight loss to a pound a week and you’ll find success with dieting and continue breastfeeding.