Breastfeeding: Do all Women Lose Weight while Nursing?

I have heard that breastfeeding mothers lose weight easily, but that hasn't been true for me. I have a five-month-old son, and other than the initial weight loss, I haven't lost any more weight. I nursed my first son and didn't lose my "baby" weight until he was about two. I eat normally and I exercise three times a week. Do all women lose weight while nursing?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Many mothers do find it easier to lose weight while breastfeeding than at any other time. Unfortunately, this is not true for all nursing moms, as you have found out.

This is an area that has not been well studied, though in the book, "Nutrition during Lactation," by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences (1991) this topic is briefly addressed, but no conclusions are drawn. Though most women do lose weight gradually during lactation, it was noted that one study showed that 22 percent of women actually experienced weight gain. The authors of this study concluded that breastfeeding alone does not guarantee weight loss (Manning-Dalton & Allen 1983).

In the book, "Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding," author Eileen Behan, RD, shares the results of a study of 1,423 women presented at the First European Congress on Obesity (1988). Behan states, "The strongest predictor for weight retention was how much mothers gained while pregnant; women who gained more than the recommended amount had a harder time getting it off. Older mothers retained more weight than younger moms. There were larger variations in weight gains and loses, but the bottom line was that breastfeeding alone does not guarantee weight loss."

Part Two: Tips for safely losing weight while nursing
It is frustrating not be to able to lose weight as you expected. If you are eating around 1800 calories a day and exercising aerobically three times a week, your body may just not be ready to lose the "baby" weight -- yet. You may find that as your baby begins to wean, your appetite will decrease, and you may then begin dropping a few pounds. Hang in there.

In the meantime, keep up a good healthy diet, along with exercise. You might find it helpful to begin increasing the number of times you exercise each week, until you are exercising for around 45 minutes between five and seven times a week. This may be enough to help to jump-start your metabolism and may help you to begin losing weight.

Go slowly and try not to be overly concerned at this time. With proper diet and exercise you will stay healthy, and find your weight does begin to return to your pre-pregnancy level.


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