Diet and exercise for new mom?

I am nursing my newborn and I am anxious to begin losing weight. Is is best to just diet, or should I add some exercise to my program? If I exercise will it hurt my milk supply?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

The medical community supports the safety of moderate weight loss after giving birth. In fact the Institute of Medicine has stated that for overweight, lactating women, a weight loss of up to 1.1 pounds (0.5kg) per week appears safe.

A study by the University of California at Davis further supports this advice. (Dewey KG. 1998. Effects of maternal calorie restriction and exercise during lactation. J. Nutr. 128: 386S-389S.) Therefore, if you enjoy exercise, by all means go for it without worry that it will harm your milk supply.

For the purpose of losing weight, your best path would be to combine diet and exercise. A study at UC Davis (McCrory, Rivers, and Mole, et. al., 1999, Randomized trial of the short-term effects of dieting compared with dieting plus aerobic exercise on lactation performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 69:959-967) looked at three groups of women: nondieters, those who dieted and a group that combined both diet and exercise. It is interesting to note that while the difference in weight loss varied greatly among the three groups, there was no difference in the amount of milk production, the amount of weight that babies gained, or how often moms nursed their babies. The non-dieters did lose a small amount of weight and the other two groups lost significantly more weight, with little or no difference between the dieters and the diet and exercise group.

What is also interesting to note is that all of the weight loss in the diet and exercise group was from fat loss, whereas only two thirds of the weight loss from the diet alone group was from fat. In other , lean body mass (muscle) was conserved and fat loss enhanced in the diet and exercise group.

Although more studies are needed to support the findings of this study, a case is building that further highlights the benefit of exercise in weight control during all phases of our life. Exercising while nursing, as part of your weight loss program, is the recommended way to go.

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