Nutrition, Exercise, and Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

Despite one highly publicized but very questionable study about exercising during lactation, there is NO evidence that moderate exercise is anything but beneficial for nursing mothers (or anyone else, for that matter.) Plan to exercise after nursing so your breasts won't be full and uncomfortable. Wear a supportive sports bra. Drink a glass of water before and immediately after exercising. Drink more in hot weather. If you regularly lift weights or do other exercises involving repetitive arm movement, start slowly. If you develop plugged ducts, cut back and start again more slowly. Rinse off your breasts before nursing - some babies don't like the taste of the salt. Take walks with your baby. If you carry him in a backpack, his extra weight will use up even more calories. Weather permitting, go for lots of walks - this counts as exercise and gets you out of the house as well. It the weather keeps you inside, try carrying your little one in a sling while you do housework - and try dancing with him. You may feel silly, but he'll love it and so will you. Nobody will see you, and postpartum mothers are supposed to act a little bit goofy - the technical term is "baby brain".

In summary: try to eat a nutritious diet while you are nursing, for your sake and your baby's. Don't worry if your diet isn't perfect, your milk will still be fine. If you want to lose weight, you will probably lose it without radically altering your diet while your are nursing. If you want to lose weight faster, start slowly, increase your activity level, and eat nutrient dense and healthy foods. Moderate exercise is good for both you and your baby. Try to make it fun so that you'll stick with your exercise program. Eat anything you want to in moderation, and remember that many mothers lose weight while lactating even without modifying their diet or exercise regimen. You will usually keep about three pounds of extra tissue in your breasts as long as you are nursing, so factor that into your weight loss goals. Enjoy nursing your baby, eat a healthy diet, and you most likely will lose weight while eating more food than you were used to eating before your little one arrived.

Sources include:
•  Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 2nd Edition, Riordan an Auerbach, 1999
•  LLLI The Breastfeeding Answer Book, revised edition, 1997
•  The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, 3rd edition, Eiger and Wendkos olds, 1999

Anne SmithAnne Smith, IBCLC has breastfed a total of six children (three boys, three girls). She feel that her first hand experience plus her more than twenty years experience of counseling nursing mothers are among her most important credentials. Anne has been a La Leche Leader since 1978 and IBCLC since 1990. As a nursing mother, LLL Leader, and IBCLC, Anne has worked in many areas over the years. She has led support group meetings, taught breastfeeding classes, trained breastfeeding peer counselors to work with low income mothers, worked one-on-one with mothers to solve breastfeeding problems, helped thousands of mothers with breastfeeding questions over the phone, held workshops for health professionals on various breastfeeding topics, taught OB, Pediatric, and Family Practice Residents breastfeeding at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, and run a breast pump rental station with over 100 pumps, scales, and nursing bras for the past eleven years. We invite you to visit Anne's website.

Copyright © Anne Smith. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.