How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding (2023)

For most of us moms, there was at least one moment after giving birth when we caught a glimpse in the mirror of our postpartum body in all its stretched-out, bulbous glory and felt a wave of shock. Most of us want our pre-pregnancy body back as quickly as possible, but dropping those pounds postpartum—especially losing weight while breastfeeding, when you’re hungry all the time—isn’t always an easy feat, nor should it be rushed.

“In order to deliver a baby, everything in the body expands,” says Jennifer Ritchie, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in Newport Beach, California and author of I Make Milk, What’s Your Superpower? “Your hips expand, your ribcage expands. It took a good nine months to put that weight on, so give yourself at least nine months to get it off and get your body back.”

Once you’re past the first few weeks after giving birth (your body needs time to heal, after all), getting back to a shape you’re happier with is possible. Here are tips on how to lose weight while breastfeeding without impacting your milk supply.

One thing to keep in mind as you read: Your body just did something amazing! Growing baby took time, allow yourself that same time to heal, recover and get back to your pre-pregnancy body (if that is your goal).

In this article:
Dieting while breastfeeding
Foods to eat while breastfeeding
Easing into postpartum exercise

Dieting While Breastfeeding

Most experts don’t advocate dieting while breastfeeding. That’s because your body needs extra fuel to make breast milk—about 500 or so additional calories a day, says Mary Jane Detroyer, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based nutritionist, registered dietitian and personal trainer.

“We definitely recommend that mothers not go on a particularly restrictive diet—nothing that’s lower than 1,500 calories a day, which wouldn’t permit a robust milk supply,” adds Shannon Davids, MD, an OB-GYN at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. In general, she says, an 1,800- to 2,200-calorie diet a day is optimal for overall nutrition, recovery and breastfeeding.

While some nursing women shed pounds quickly, since the act of making milk burns off a lot of calories, others have to be more mindful in balancing how much they eat versus what they eat to reach a more homeostatic weight, says Detroyer. Read on to learn which foods are best—and best avoided—to support your goals of losing weight while breastfeeding.

(Video) How can I lose weight while breastfeeding without affecting my milk supply?

Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

For the fastest way to lose weight while breastfeeding, don’t count calories, says Detroyer—rather, be mindful of the quality of foods you’re eating. Instead of eating less, which would likely impact your milk supply, make your meals healthy and nutritious and just a bit bigger than normal. “Add an extra ounce or two of protein at a meal, a cup of starch and a quarter cup of veggies—that’s all you need,” she says. “Problems arise when you substitute nutrient-dense food for others because they’re quick and easy.”

Grabbing the nearest bag of chips or cookies when you’re exhausted and between feedings might be convenient, but cheese or a handful of almonds or crackers spread with peanut butter are better options. Try to stock up on these food groups to get your body back on track and keep your breast milk as nutritious as possible:

Fruits, vegetables and grains for minerals and vitamins. Detroyer suggests whole wheat, rye, quinoa, millet and farro.

Starches that provide energy to help your body produce milk. Good options include winter squash, beans, potatoes, pasta and rice.

Lean protein from meat, fish and nuts to help build and repair body tissue.

Fat. Your diet doesn’t influence how much fat ends up in your milk, but it does impact the type. Olive oil, cheese, eggs, avocados, nuts and seeds help provide a good balance of monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for baby’s brain development.

Water. Breast milk is about 90 percent water, but you don’t have to chug water constantly to stay hydrated (and drinking more won’t produce excess milk). Drink when you’re thirsty and keep an eye on the color of your urine. If it’s dark, you need to take in more fluids.

These are some foods that experts advise limiting to support losing weight while breastfeeding:

Snack foods with empty calories, like chips, candy and soda.

(Video) HOW TO: Lose Weight Fast While Breastfeeding

Sugary foods, which have been shown to contribute to inflammation.

Alcohol, which in large amounts via breast milk could impair baby’s development.

Easing into Postpartum Exercise

Being mindful of what you eat is the best way to jumpstart your metabolism and lose weight while breastfeeding without sacrificing the quality or quantity of your breast milk, but postpartum exercise should be part of your regime too. Not only will it boost your energy, but engaging in light movement as soon as you feel up to it will help get your stretched-out abdominal muscles back into shape.

“It’s not just about the extra pounds; your body tissue changes too,” says Susan Clinton, PT, a physical therapist and co-founder of Embody Physiotherapy and Wellness in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. “A lot of people look at a drooping belly as fat to lose, but it’s more that the muscles need to learn to come back into a shortened position to be part of the abdominal wall again.”

The natural weight-lifting program of early motherhood—lifting your newborn, walking up and down stairs, pushing the stroller—are enough to get started in the first two or three weeks after giving birth, says Clinton, noting that even women who didn’t experience tearing or an episiotomy need time for their pelvic muscles to heal. “As long as you’re staying active, your body will start to change,” she says.

Other ways to help tone your muscles after giving birth and lose weight while breastfeeding:

Do Kegel exercises to help strengthen your pelvic muscles more quickly.

Pull in your stomach, which can also help toughen up muscles.

Gentle (not deep!) stretching with a resistance band to work the parts of your body strained by breastfeeding: your shoulders, back and chest.

(Video) Effective ways to lose weight for breastfeeding mothers - Ms. Sushma Jaiswal

Go for a walk, even a short one, each day.

Hold baby close to your body to protect your abdominal wall.

Building Yourself Back Up

Once your healthcare provider gives you the green light to start exercising more regularly—for moms who had a c-section or lots of tearing, that’s usually about eight weeks after giving birth—you should still go easy. “If you’re super-fatigued, the worst thing you can do is get all crazy with high-intensity exercise,” says Clinton. “It could actually make you gain weight instead of burning excess calories.”

To help you in losing weight while breastfeeding, try to work yourself up to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, which is about 20 to 30 minutes a day of walking. You can also resume things like yoga or tai chi, especially if you were practicing before baby. While exercising doesn’t impact the composition of your breast milk, you should replace any fluid you lose through sweating to keep your milk supply up, says Davids. You also might want to pump or nurse before working out so you’re not uncomfortably engorged.

Signs you may be working your body too hard too soon: You regularly leak urine while running, leaping or sneezing during workouts or you experience recurring joint pain. “Don’t brush any of this off to ‘Oh, I just had a baby,’” says Clinton. “These are signs your system isn’t optimal and you need to go back to your medical team.”

The true secret to losing weight while breastfeeding? Stay away from social media feeds, magazine articles and TV shows that showcase how quickly others lost their baby weight, and focus on your own journey. “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else,” says Detroyer. “You’ll just drive yourself crazy.” Everyone loses weight at a different rate. Instead of obsessing over numbers on the scale, strive toward getting to a point where you feel healthy, happy and strong. Postpartum bodies all look different, but every mama is a warrior!"

Remember that growing and giving birth to baby is no small feat. Your postpartum body is a reminder you just did something amazing. If you are keen to get back to your pre-pregnancy body, remember to do it in a way that best serves you and baby.

Updated January 2020

Expert bios:

(Video) 10 Tips to Lose weight while Breast Feeding

Jennifer Ritchie, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant in Newport Beach, California. She’s the founder and owner of Milkalicious and author of I Make Milk, What’s Your Superpower?.

Mary Jane Detroyer, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer with more than 20 years of experience working in health and fitness. She operates a private practice in New York City, Mary Jane Detroyer & Associates.

Shannon Davids, MD, is an OB-GYN at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. She completed her medical degree at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, Medical School.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Love Your Postpartum Body

How to Eat a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet

10-Minute Workout Routines You Can Do While Baby Naps

(Video) How To Lose Weight While Breastfeeding


Is it harder to lose weight while breastfeeding? ›

The reasons why some women may have a harder time losing their baby weight while breastfeeding can be diverse. For one, breastfeeding tends to increase hunger. Studies show that some women eat more and move less while nursing — compensating for the extra calorie burn of breastfeeding ( 17 ).

What should I eat to lose weight while breastfeeding? ›

Breastfeeding mothers should consume at least 1800 calories a day and can safely lose around 1 lb/week (La Leche League, 2010; Lauwers & Swisher, 2015). Aim to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while minimizing empty carbohydrates and junk food.

How can I lose 10 pounds in a month while breastfeeding? ›

Here's the quick list of the 5 tips for losing 10 lbs while breastfeeding, then I will go into detail on each one:
  1. Switching to a Nutrient-Dense Diet.
  2. Eating Enough Protein.
  3. Fasted Cardio/Walking.
  4. High-Fiber Snacks.
  5. Strength Workouts.

Does pumping help you lose weight? ›

You may lose some of the weight gained during pregnancy while exclusively pumping. Pumping mothers can burn up to 500 extra calories per day. But keep in mind, you'll need to eat often to replenish calories lost and keep up your energy levels.

How can I lose 50 pounds while breastfeeding? ›

However, there are several things you can do to safely support weight loss while breastfeeding.
  1. Go lower-carb. Limiting the amount of carbohydrates you consume may help you lose pregnancy weight faster. ...
  2. Exercise safely. ...
  3. Stay hydrated. ...
  4. Don't skip meals. ...
  5. Eat more frequently. ...
  6. Rest when you can.
Mar 1, 2019

Does pumping burn as many calories as breastfeeding? ›

Since a breast pump mimics a baby sucking at the breast, your body responds similarly when it comes to the metabolic response. But while both pumping and breastfeeding burn calories, breastfeeding tends to be more efficient and therefore moms who breastfeed do it more often, burning more calories in the long run.

Why am I gaining weight breastfeeding? ›

That may sound extreme, but nearly every mom who's ever exclusively breastfed her baby can agree that breastfeeding is a workout and makes you HUNGRY, since the body needs to replenish the calories it burns producing milk (about 20 calories per ounce).

How can a nursing mother lose belly fat? ›

6 easy steps to lose belly fat after delivering a baby
  1. 01/7​6 easy steps to lose belly fat after delivering a baby. ...
  2. 02/7​Breastfeed your baby. ...
  3. 03/7​Eat frequently. ...
  4. 04/7​Start exercising. ...
  5. 05/7​Start with a simple walk. ...
  6. 06/7​Try deep belly breathing with abdominal contraction. ...
  7. 07/7​Drink ajwain water.
Aug 12, 2020

Does body hold onto fat while breastfeeding? ›

Your body will generally hold on to an extra 5-10 pounds above your pre-pregnancy weight, until several weeks after weaning and this is to protect your ability to produce milk, in case of illnesses or famine/severe calorie restriction, which is often seen in fad diets.

How to lose 40 pounds while breastfeeding? ›

Tips to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
  1. Begin exercising. Talk to your doctor about adding exercise once you heal from delivery. ...
  2. Eat healthy foods. Junk food is full of non-nutritious, empty calories. ...
  3. Get enough sleep. It might be hard for a new breastfeeding mom, but try to rest when you can. ...
  4. Start slow.
Oct 23, 2021

How to lose 20 pounds in 2 months while breastfeeding? ›

How to Lose 20 Pounds While Breast-feeding
  1. Breastfeed as often as the baby shows hunger cues and avoid giving the infant formula. ...
  2. Decrease your caloric intake to around 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day. ...
  3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. ...
  4. Exercise for 30 minutes or more, on most days of the week.

How many calories do I burn breastfeeding 3 times a day? ›

Making breast milk and breastfeeding burns calories. Your body generally burns between 200 to 500 extra calories a day while you're breastfeeding.

What causes rapid weight loss after pregnancy? ›

The baby, amniotic fluid, placenta, and other fluids leave your body, and over the next six weeks, you will continue to lose weight as other fluids in your body return to pre-pregnancy levels.

What is considered an oversupply of milk? ›

An oversupply of breast milk generally refers to a mother who is able to nurse her infant, or multiples, and is still able to produce a significant amount of breast milk (more than 4-5 oz) in a pump session after a feeding.

Is 10 minutes of pumping enough? ›

For many moms, 10-15 minutes of pumping is long enough. Once a week, add up the milk you pump in a 24-hour period. Write it down and compare your totals each week. You'll know right away if your production drops.

Why am I not losing weight 3 months postpartum? ›

A lot of extra weight after baby happens because of a hormonal imbalance. It takes a while to get the hormones back on track after baby. For some women, it takes a lot longer than others. If your hormones are still out of whack after baby, it may manifest itself through an inability to lose weight.

How long does it take to lose 45 pounds after having a baby? ›

It might take about 6 to 12 months to get close to your pre-pregnancy weight. Losing one to two pounds a week is what experts recommend as healthy for most women. Your body needs time to recover and heal after pregnancy and childbirth, so try not to rush the process.

How much weight can I safely lose in a month while breastfeeding? ›

On average, exclusively breastfeeding mothers may see a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per month. For those struggling to lose those extra pregnancy pounds, breastfeeding isn't the answer. Instead, the focus should be on a healthy diet and exercise.

Can you have diet shakes while breastfeeding? ›

Calorie Intake

When you are breastfeeding, increased caloric intake is needed both for your health and nursing. Producing breast milk requires an additional 500 to 700 calories per day. It is fine to use weight loss shakes as a quick snack or the occasional light meal.

Does nursing remove more milk than pumping? ›

Healthy infants who breastfeed effectively are often thought to be more efficient than the expression of milk either by hand or with an electric breast pump. Breastfed infants have been shown to remove 50% of the total volume of milk removed at a breastfeed in the first 2 min and 80% in 4 min [31].

How many calories does 1 oz of breastmilk burn? ›

How many calories does breastfeeding burn? There are 20-22 calories per ounce of breast milk. The recommendation is to have 10-12 feedings a day. This comes out to an average of over 500 calories burned a day.

Can I have lemon water during breastfeeding? ›

Yes, lemon water is considered “safe to drink” when breastfeeding. It is most commonly recommended to stay hydrated and keep digestive issues, such as bloating, at bay (1). When breastfeeding, this healthy drink could add variety to your daily water intake.

How can I speed up my metabolism while breastfeeding? ›

Instead, Berman suggests these six quick tips to boost your metabolism and avoid excessive weight gain after breastfeeding or any other time, really!
  1. Don't go too long between meals. ...
  2. Exercise. ...
  3. Watch what you drink. ...
  4. Try to get sleep. ...
  5. Eat more fiber. ...
  6. Don't beat yourself up.
Aug 19, 2016

Can breastfeeding slow down metabolism? ›

There's also some evidence that prolactin, the hormone responsible for the production of breastmilk, not only slows down the body's metabolism of fat but may also act as an appetite stimulant.

Does breastfeeding speed up metabolism? ›

Overall maternal adaptations during lactation include increased basal metabolic rates and mobilization of fat stores [22–24]. Maternal fuel metabolism is altered markedly, with a 15 %–25 % increase in energy expenditure for milk production [24, 25].

How long does it take to lose 50 pounds postpartum? ›

You should plan to return to your pre-pregnancy weight by 6 to 12 months after delivery. Most women lose half of their baby weight by 6 weeks after childbirth (postpartum). The rest most often comes off over the next several months. A healthy diet with daily exercise will help you shed the pounds.

Will I stop losing weight if I stop breastfeeding? ›

While the level of prolactin, a hormone produced by the body during lactation, drops once a new mother stops breastfeeding, this is a gradual process. When stored in the body (instead of being expelled while nursing), prolactin reduces fat metabolism, which leads to weight gain as well as depression and grief.

What is the best intermittent fasting for weight loss while breastfeeding? ›

Doing 16/8 intermittent fasting while breastfeeding (16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour, non-restricted eating window) is your best choice. It means a shorter fasting time and allows you to eat whatever you want and as much as you choose. Consider a 14/10 fasting schedule for the first few months as your body adjusts.

How to lose 10 pounds postpartum? ›

Tips to help lose baby weight
  1. Keep your goals realistic. ...
  2. Don't crash diet. ...
  3. Breastfeed if you can. ...
  4. Monitor your calorie intake. ...
  5. Eat foods high in fiber. ...
  6. Stock up on healthy proteins. ...
  7. Keep healthy snacks handy. ...
  8. Avoid added sugar and refined carbs.

Why can't I lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight? ›

Your metabolism is changing

It turns out, the less you weigh, the fewer calories your body burns. So, despite the success you had at whatever calorie threshold you previously set, you're going to need to lower it to get after those last 10. Try 100 fewer calories for every five additional pounds you want to lose.

Does pumping delay your period? ›

Pumping or expressing breast milk by hand does not have the same effect on your body as breastfeeding does. If you choose to pump and bottle feed your baby, it will not hold off your period.

How do I know if I am eating enough while breastfeeding? ›

They seem calm and relaxed during feeds. Your baby comes off the breast on their own at the end of feeds. Their mouth looks moist after feeds. Your baby appears content and satisfied after most feeds.

How much water should you drink while breastfeeding? ›

As a nursing mother, you need about 16 cups per day of water, which can come from food, beverages and drinking water, to compensate for the extra water that is used to make milk. One way to help you get the fluids you need is to drink a large glass of water each time you breastfeed your baby.

How can I speed up my post pregnancy weight loss? ›

5 keys to safely losing weight after having a baby
  1. Set realistic weight-loss goals. Setting yourself up for postpartum weight-loss success starts by knowing how long it usually takes. ...
  2. Eat well-balanced meals. ...
  3. Portion control. ...
  4. Make time for exercise — but ease into it. ...
  5. Don't forget about self-care.
Aug 4, 2022

Is it possible to be skinnier after pregnancy? ›

Often, excess or rapid postpartum weight loss is due to lifestyle issues and the pressures of new parenthood (like being too tired to eat), other times there may be a health concern that needs treatment. Either way, help is out there. So, if you're worried about losing too much weight, contact your doctor.

Why am I struggling to lose weight after having a baby? ›

Your body is still healing.

“Many women gain a large amount of gestational weight. And after the baby comes, you have less time to exercise, less sleep, and your body is still healing from pregnancy and delivery,” explains Laura Arndt, a pre- and postnatal expert and the CEO of Matriarc.

Is pumping 30 ounces a day good? ›

If you're exclusively pumping, on average, you should try maintain full milk production of about 25-35 oz. (750-1,035 mL) per 24 hours. It may take some time to achieve this target, do not worry about hitting this on day one! Babies may take more milk from the bottle than when breastfeeding.

What does letdown feel like? ›

Some women feel the let-down reflex as a tingling sensation in the breasts or a feeling of fullness, although others don't feel anything in the breast. Most women notice a change in their baby's sucking pattern as the milk begins to flow, from small, shallow sucks to stronger, slower sucks.

Can pumping too much decrease milk supply? ›

Can pumping decrease milk supply? Pumping itself does not decrease your breast milk supply. In fact, it can help boost it. But if you are having trouble with low milk supply, the first step is to check that you are using the right breast pump.

Can I go 8 hours without pumping at night? ›

Ultimately, if your baby has reached its birth weight and you're pumping enough milk during the day, it's okay to sleep eight hours without pumping at night.

Is it normal to only get 2 oz when pumping? ›

The normal amount is anywhere between . 5 to 2 ounces (for both breasts) per pumping session. And it's not unusual to need to pump 2-3 times to get enough milk out for one feeding for baby. Please don't assume that not pumping a lot is any indication that your milk supply is low.

Is 4 hours too long to go without pumping? ›

Avoid going longer than 5-6 hours without pumping during the first few months. When pumping during the night, milk yield tends to be better if you pump when you naturally wake (to go to the bathroom or because your breasts are uncomfortably full) than if you set an alarm to wake for pumping.

Why am I not losing any weight while breastfeeding? ›

Prolactin is the hormone that tells your body to make milk (2). It will also increase your appetite. This increase may cause you to eat more calories than you need for milk production. Those extra calories could cause you to gain weight instead of losing it.

Does breastfeeding make you hold onto weight? ›

Your body will generally hold on to an extra 5-10 pounds above your pre-pregnancy weight, until several weeks after weaning and this is to protect your ability to produce milk, in case of illnesses or famine/severe calorie restriction, which is often seen in fad diets.

Why am I gaining weight during breastfeeding? ›

That may sound extreme, but nearly every mom who's ever exclusively breastfed her baby can agree that breastfeeding is a workout and makes you HUNGRY, since the body needs to replenish the calories it burns producing milk (about 20 calories per ounce).

Do you weigh more when breastfeeding? ›

On average, exclusively breastfeeding mothers may see a loss of 1-2 pounds a month and over time, breastfeeding moms tend to lose more weight than mothers who do not breastfeed (Dewey, Heinig & Nommsen, 1993).

How can a breastfeeding mother lose belly fat? ›

6 easy steps to lose belly fat after delivering a baby
  1. 01/7​6 easy steps to lose belly fat after delivering a baby. ...
  2. 02/7​Breastfeed your baby. ...
  3. 03/7​Eat frequently. ...
  4. 04/7​Start exercising. ...
  5. 05/7​Start with a simple walk. ...
  6. 06/7​Try deep belly breathing with abdominal contraction. ...
  7. 07/7​Drink ajwain water.
Aug 12, 2020

Why is postpartum weight loss so hard? ›

"You'll have to slowly build up post-pregnancy to your usual fitness level which may take time to rebuild any lost muscle mass. Muscle mass directly affects metabolism so this may decrease the rate at which you lose weight until you build up your muscle again," says Shapiro.

Does breastfeeding slow metabolism? ›

Lactation and Adaptations of Maternal Metabolism

Overall maternal adaptations during lactation include increased basal metabolic rates and mobilization of fat stores [22–24]. Maternal fuel metabolism is altered markedly, with a 15 %–25 % increase in energy expenditure for milk production [24, 25].

How long does the average woman breastfeed for? ›

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 [PDF-30.6MB] recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer.

Is intermittent fasting safe while breastfeeding? ›

"Intermittent fasting for weight loss while breastfeeding will not harm the baby as long as you continue regular feedings," says Bruce K. Young, MD, an internationally known leader and innovator in obstetrics and gynecology.


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3. 9 Amazing Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water While Breastfeeding
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4. Fastest Way to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
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