Why losing weight when your breastfeeding isn’t as easy as they’ll have you believe

Ok, so any of you who have read my various posts will know that whilst pregnant I gained 40lbs and battled with gestational diabetes. You may also recall that I gave birth to a bruiser at 4.085kg. Add to that my placenta itself weighed a whooping 3kgs and all the fluid etc and I probably lost a good 14lbs the minute my little lamb entered the world. Over the course of the next month another 7lbs.

I naïvely thought to myself that since breastfeeding burned extra calories it was going to allow me back in my skinny jeans before I even hit the 6 month mark. All I had to do was keep up my relatively healthy eating habits.

Oh how wrong could I have been!?

Losing weight when breastfeeding

 

It appears that my body is highly successful at producing gallons on milk and at the drop of a hat, however in doing so clung to between 16 to 20lbs weight and will instantly stop working the minute I should even look at a salad. After all there is a general misconception that if you breastfeed, you will watch the pounds melt away with little to no effort. Whilst this works for some, it doesn’t work for everyone.

At the start of my breastfeeding journey I was lucky enough to see that my pouch; left over from having carried my cutie for 9 months, vanished almost overnight. It certainly appeared to do what it said on the tin!  The science behind this is that breastfeeding helps your uterus contract and therefore shrink back to its original size quickly, thus pulling in the 6 month pregnancy belly you are left with after your delivery.

However once I had established a routine and was feeding little’n every 2 hours, my appetite went through the roof! Couple this with the sleep deprivation experienced from being a food source to someone every 2 hours around the clock and your body is going to start craving, and when your tired, hungry, hormonal and emotional (what new mum wouldn’t be) you have the perfect recipe for an overload of carbohydrates! The exact thing anyone trying to lose weight knows they need to keep well away from.

So as to prepare for this I had lots of health snacks on hand and plenty of water to sip whilst I sat there and nursed him with all the goodness breast milk provides. But what I may not have factored in was the extra weight I had gained when pregnant may well have dropped off but I was quickly replacing it with new weight gain from all the increased calorie intake eating all the time will ensue. This weight not being baby weight but actually fat.

Losing Weight Postpartum
Me at 3 days before delivery

Now dieting is never a good solution, as it is not a long-term fix but a short-term process to get you to where you want to be. Long term you need to look at your lifestyle and eating habits making changes that will stay in place long after you have achieved your weight goals. That said, I am sure we have all been guilty of having tried many a fad diet in the hope we will fit into that dress for a wedding or look good in our bikini for that holiday next month.

As a breastfeeding mother, this gets further complicated by the fact that you must support a certain level of calorie intake to make sure 1. your milk supply remain constant 2. That your milk remains full of the healthy nutrients and fats your baby needs to grow big and strong.  Most research will tell you breastfeeding will burn anywhere between 500 to 850 extra calories a day, however this is not set in stone and each mother will find her needs and those of her baby will vary greatly from the next.

My cutie was a bruiser from the moment he arrived and he ate for the entire maternity ward and was constantly snacking, so logic would have had me believe I really did not need to worry much about my calorie consumption as he as consuming it all! How wrong could I be!?

Advice on the subject will tell you that you need to make sure you consume somewhere between 1500 – 1800 calories a day whilst breastfeeding and that this should enable you to lose roughly 1.5lbs a week which is a steady and safe weight lost that will gradually get you to your target weight.  However this works on the assumption that your body is able to burn enough of those calories each day to create a deficient enabling you to lose that 1.5lbs each week.

What it doesn’t fact in, is someone in my situation, whose appetite was out of control and who was limited in the level of activity she could do due to the injuries sustained. As a result of my inactivity and my need for ice cream to console myself I am 8 months postpartum and still 10kg up from my pre-pregnancy weight.

Tips and tricks for breastfeeding weightloss

 

I know there are no quick fixes and that it will be a slow and gradual process. I have set myself a target and a date so that I can attempt to stay focused (easier said than done) and I only hope that I will one day regain some semblance of the body I once had. In reality, the only sure-fire way to achieve this goal is to follow a healthy eating plan and ensuring I exercise regularly (something I am hoping to resume now I am finally on the mend). There are other tips and tricks that you can put into practise along the way which will help and these are some of my recommended suggestions.

Postpartum Girdle

I had never really heard of these before, but it is something recently hitting the headlines with the likes of Kim and Kourtney Kardashian being big advocates of them. However living in Europe, it seems these are actually pretty run of the mill here and most women option for one. There are 100’s of brands on the market so a bit of research is definitely recommended. Here is Portugal you can buy a Chicco one from pretty much any pharmacy. I actually used this as a last-ditch attempt after the one I had spent hours researching and investing in proved too uncomfortable due to the level of my injuries. However the two leading brands I found where BellyBandit and bellefit.

After hours of online searches I opted for the Bellefit and even though initially I wasn’t able to use it, I would still highly recommend it. I went for the dual closure that offers hook and eye front and zip on the side and it by far offered the level of coverage and support needed and was actually very discreet and comfortable, with easy access in the groin area as well, allow you to pop to the loo without much fuss. My decision was based mainly on what would be the least visible under clothing and not displace itself throughout a days wear.  Additionally I had fears of ending up with a C-section and this model would allow for this without an issue.

Bellybandit is also excellent is you are looking for comfort but I felt it a little more bulky and perhaps not as good coverage over the entire hip butt and belly areas.

These are also great for after the initial postpartum period, help with lymphatic drainage and generally make you feel better about yourself as they flatter your figure!

Yoga

Now I followed Vinyasa yoga religiously the entire way through my pregnancy, and was still doing almost all poses and sun salutations even at 38 weeks pregnant (I was induced at 39!) with the assistance of a couple of yoga blocks (for when I couldn’t reach anymore) and a few cushions (for comfort!). I 100% attribute this to my ability to cope in my delivery and in having the strength to hold myself and even stand after the severity of my resulting wounds.

Equally after delivery yoga was one of the few things I could still partake in on some level to help me feel healthy and keep working my core. Admittedly it was very limited but a quick power yoga session was an excellent way to balance my mind and body, short enough to do it without too much discomfort and effective enough to help pull my core back to where it once was.

A Healthy Eating Plan

I happened to already have been a lifetime member of slimming world having lost a sizable amount with them when I was 21, so I didn’t need a lot of convincing that it was a good plan. The best thing about it is that it really isn’t restrictive, you can see load up on carbs or have the pizza, ice cream, or indian you have dreamed about through a sleepless night, just the preparations is different. You may substitute certain items like cream for alternatives like 0% natural yogurt. Better still they have an entire section dedicated to breastfeeding mothers and they make it very clear and easy how to stick to the plan without jeopardising your milk supply!

Unfortunately being in Portugal meant I wasn’t able to attend a class locally, but they offer full support online and the subscription is the same as if you attended each week. They will send you their magazines, you can buy recipe books and even hi-fi bars in their online shop too!

So whilst I am still fighting my battle with my postpartum body and pregnancy weight loss, I am confident that I will get there in the end, it just may take me longer than others. I don’t feel that it is anything to be ashamed of and I am proud to look at myself in the full knowledge that this body built a baby! I hope other mum’s feel the same way and I would love to know what experiences they have had with losing weight after having their little ones, breastfeeding or not?

What’s your weight loss experience after having your little one?

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