Getting Back to Pre-Pregnancy Weight
I was really eager to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size as soon as possible after my son was born. I think that breastfeeding ultimately made my weight loss easier because I was burning so many extra calories. In fact, I returned to my pre-preggo weight without following any diet or exercise program. (Beyond walking a lot, I didn’t exercise at all – read about it here).
The trouble with getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight was that the number on the scale might have been the same, but my body was not the same as pre-pregnancy. I wasn’t quite the same shape. I felt flabby and lethargic. So, I embarked on an exercise and diet program (BBG) and learned a few things about exercising while breastfeeding along the way.
Weight Loss While Breastfeeding
Before you read on I’d like to remind you I am not a healthcare professional – these are personal tips from my own experience and I strongly advise professional advice if you have any questions or concerns when trying to lose weight postpartum.
My tips for exercise and weight loss while breastfeeding:
1) It can be hard to do high impact activities when your breasts are full.
Some of my breastfeeding friends can go for a run without pumping or nursing first and not have a problem. I’m not particularly large-breasted, but I find it incredibly uncomfortable to do any high-impact cardio unless I have pumped or nursed immediately beforehand, even while wearing super-supportive exercise bras.
To avoid the full breast problem while exercising, I would often nurse my son before naps and then workout while he was sleeping. I also wound up storing a manual pump in my gym bag to make sure I could be comfortable for high impact workouts.
Whether you empty your breasts before a workout or not, remember to make sure you have a well-fitting and very supportive bra. This is important not only for comfort but also to avoid issues like clogged ducts due to pressure from bra that doesn’t fit properly.
2) Very intense workouts may temporarily impact your milk supply.
This is a scary one! I did a really intense high intensity interval training session and then tried to nurse my son about 20 minutes later. Although it had been about 3 hours since he last nursed, I couldn’t seem to produce any milk! I had not fully cooled down and I was maybe a little dehydrated, so I attribute the temporary lack of milk to the combination of a really intense workout and not enough water. In the moment, it was really frightening because I had never had a supply problem before.
I have since heard anecdotally from other moms that they have had this same problem, but a bit of research online didn’t yield much information. After fully cooling down and ensuring I was very well hydrated, my milk did return. Since then I haven’t tried nursing immediately after an HIIT session but I also do shorter sessions because of the lingering fear of impacting my milk supply.
3) You will be really hungry – and you need to eat enough!
The hunger I felt post-workout was like no hunger I’d experienced before! A 30 minute cardio session left me starving. This is pretty normal – my body was burning extra calories to produce milk. The important thing is to eat enough to make sure your body can still produce milk while you stay healthy.
On days I didn’t eat enough I would feel exhausted. No amount of coffee could get me going, and regardless of how healthy the food I ate was, if I didn’t consume enough calories I really dragged all day long. Restricting calories too much while breastfeeding is not healthy – I felt like crap and my milk supply suffered for it.
4) You will be really thirsty – stay hydrated to maintain your milk supply.
Every breastfeeding mom knows how thirsty she gets without exercising at all. Add in a little sweat and you feel like you can drink a river! Staying hydrated becomes even more important if you are an exercising and breastfeeding mom so you can produce sufficient milk.
Do remember, though, that the advice on hydration is to drink to thirst. You don’t need to drink excessive amounts if you don’t feel thirsty. I fell into this trap early on and I was running to the bathroom more than once an hour. As long as you drink to thirst your supply will be fine. Based on what I pumped, over-hydrating did not translate to more breast milk.
If you are trying to lose weight, I strongly recommend avoiding high calorie drinks and focus on water as your main source of hydration. If plain water is boring, add a twist of lemon, or make up a pitcher and soak some cucumber, or mint leaves, or lemon, or anything you like to make drinking water more enjoyable so you aren’t drinking empty calories from soda, juice, or sports drinks.
You gained weight slowly over the course of your pregnancy and the weight loss will also happen slowly. Crash dieting isn’t healthy while breastfeeding – you are sustaining a tiny human with your breastmilk and you want to maintain adequate supply!
Looking for healthy, lactation-boosting snacks? Check out my some of my lactation recipes!