Breastfeeding and Weight Loss - What Should You Eat?

One of the reasons why mothers pick up weight during pregnancy is for fat stores needed during breastfeeding. So what happens if you don’t breastfeed? The fat stores stay right where they are.

measuring tape
A measuring tape.

Breastfeeding can burn between 200 and 1000 calories daily, depending on your baby’s appetite and age.

How many calories do I burn breastfeeding?

For those of you who are not familiar with how many calories you burn in the gym, those calories would take quite some effort to burn off. For example, it would take one hour and forty-five minutes of dancing or one and a half hours of aerobics to burn off 1,000 calories!

Moreover, your body needs an extra 200-500 calories (837 - 2092 KJ) daily to keep you healthy while breastfeeding! (Depending on your BMI)

Research shows that moms who breastfeed lose the weight picked up during pregnancy much faster than moms who formula-feed their babies.

One of the reasons why mothers pick up weight during pregnancy is for fat stores needed during breastfeeding. So what happens if you don’t breastfeed? The fat stores stay right where they are.

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So What if the Fat Is Just Not Coming Off?

When some mothers have managed to get most of the weight off, they struggle with those last few postpartum pounds. You should continue your weight loss efforts and know that you are still losing inches.

When your baby goes through a growth spurt, it can signal your body to keep some extra fat stored for your baby’s nourishment. Stay away from stress eating, and as soon as you and your baby start to wean, the last few pounds should drop off quickly.

What Types of Food Should You Eat for Weight Loss While Breastfeeding?

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein, and foods that contain healthy fats. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

Some good foods to eat while breastfeeding: are oatmeal (will increase milk supply), lean protein, salad greens, mango, banana, and pineapples. You can eat anything you want as long as it is in moderation.

Eating Healthy While Breastfeeding

For weight loss while breastfeeding:

  • Consume quality calories with few fats and sugars.
  • Change your exercise routine continuously.
  • Manage stress well: Research shows that chronic stress can hinder weight loss!
  • Get eight hours of sleep every 24 hours.
  • Do strength training: When your body has a higher muscle percentage, the fat is burned off easier.
  • Do not supplement your baby with anything. Let your baby breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months.
  • Exercise three times per week, for an hour each time. Weight loss without exercise is possible if the mother doesn’t exceed her calorie balance.
baby, mommy and baby, mom holding baby
Mom and baby are playing on the bed - baby is sitting on her lap.

No Weight Loss While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding weight gain

Many women might feel that breastfeeding is making them retain or pick up extra weight. Most mothers are pretty stressed out after having a baby and might resort to food as a stress reliever.

Breastfeeding cannot make you pick up weight. It may keep you from losing your last few pounds, but that’s about it.

Some mothers only start losing weight six months after breastfeeding, but the weight eventually comes off. Keep breastfeeding after the six-month mark; the weight should come off easily.

Interesting Facts

  • Breastfeeding mothers who consume only when hungry can lose an extra 0.5kg per month more than mothers who are not breastfeeding.
  • Losing weight too quickly (more than 2,5 kg weekly) can cause the release of harmful toxins into your breast milk.
  • Moms who breastfeed seem to lose weight easier on their hips, bums, and thighs than formula-feeding moms.
  • Mothers who are overweight may face a higher likelihood of reduced milk production.


Breastfeeding and Weight Gain/Loss
by: Ann

"In my experience of breastfeeding with my first child, I found I put on weight during the first few months, which also surprised me after having read mostly only articles about breastfeeding and weight loss.

But I can attest that after about the 6-month mark, I did notice my weight stabilizing and slowly coming down again, and now I've been breastfeeding for nine months. I'm only 2 kilos above my pre-baby weight of 68 kgs (I was somewhere above 85 kgs just before I gave birth.)

I don't think we should have the false expectation that breastfeeding at the beginning with help us lose weight - I remember during the first few weeks of establishing breastfeeding, I had a ferocious appetite like when I was pregnant, and I pretty much ate whatever rich and fatty foods that I felt like eating, and I did put on a couple of kilos over the first 4 - 5 months of breastfeeding. Then, after about the 6-month mark, and once my baby was also on solids, I was no longer eating so much, nor did I have an irresistible appetite, so it was easier to go back to eating normally. Then I believe the breastfeeding actually helped me get those extra few kilos off without much effort.

But I wouldn't expect the pre-baby size to be back for at least 12 months with just normal habits.

I didn't try to lose weight by beginning an exercise regime or a new diet, so slowly losing a bit here and there seems like a normal healthy pace.

I can't imagine trying to exercise a lot (not with these boobs! Lol) or go on a diet early on when you want the milk production to establish, so give your body time - a year - and enjoy your extra mama padding while you have an excuse, is what I say."

Overweight Two Years Later
by: Almost giving up (WA)

"I was 155 when I got pregnant. Was 223 full term. Was 212 after I had her. And was back up to 228 at her five-day check-up.

Since then been up to 233 to 221. I changed my diet and started to go to the gym. I've eaten out twice since she was born - all organic fresh foods at home.

Still nursing at 20 months and still can't get any weight off. My Doctor says it's my food, but my friend weighed the same, and we both ate the same diet and went to the gym together, and she lost 20 pounds the first month. I don't know what to do. I also work 12-hour shifts as a health care worker and am lifting people and on my feet most of the day, 100 hours every two weeks.

I feel at a loss, and it seems like my Doc thinks my hubby and I must be lying to her about what I eat because all I get from them is "do weight watchers."

Has anyone else not lost any weight while nursing or gained it?

MY kid nurses 2 to 4 times a day on average. Sometimes more. Does anyone have ideas other than eating healthily and drinking water - stuff I already know and have tried? Thanks, ladies"

Re: breastfeeding and weight loss
by: Sammy

"Some people swear they can't lose a pound till they stop breastfeeding. I would be interested to know how your weight loss goes when you stop entirely. Those who say they keep on weight while breastfeeding say that even if they are nursing once a day, they keep the weight on. It was only when they completely stopped that they could shed it. Good luck!

Re: You are not alone!
by: Linda

"Wow - good to hear someone else has the same experience as me! Though I am sorry that you are struggling - it's hard.

After my 1st baby, I also gained a lot of weight while breastfeeding - in both cases, I have been heavier while breastfeeding than I was during pregnancy.

And yes, I have also done all the hardcore dieting and exercise (though that is a bit harder with 2), and nothing has changed.

My only hope is that when I wean, it will change. I am also working with an excellent Dr., And we have found that my hormones are strongly out of whack.

He said my system had essentially gone into stasis, and it wouldn't matter what I did. The weight would not shift until my hormones found balance.

We are using herbal supplements to remedy this, but I still think I need to wean now so I can get my health back - even though I wanted to keep breastfeeding till my son chooses to wean himself - but I can't go on another year or two like this...

So, maybe get your hormones checked out - I hope that helps a little. Good luck."

Breastfeeding Twins for 8 Months Striving for 11 Months - Will Weight Loss Continue
by Christell

"Hello! I was at 205 when I got pregnant with my twins. I delivered two healthy babies at 38 1/2 weeks, weighing 217.

I lost 7 pounds at the beginning of the pregnancy because everything made me sick. Now, after breastfeeding for eight months - I weigh 170 pounds!

I've maintained this weight for the past three months. I also work out four days (5 when I can) doing circuit training and cardio. I watch what I eat and count carbs because I developed gestational diabetes during my pregnancy.

My question is, how do I lose an additional 15 pounds so that when I stop breastfeeding, any weight gain will keep me between 165-170? This is a healthy weight for me, considering I haven't been this size in about seven years.

I need some GOOD advice because I want to stay healthy and active for my kids (I have a four-year-old too). I plan to train for a marathon soon (my goal is to run it shortly after the twins turn 1 in July).

I'm trying to be strong and turn away from my "plain cheese" craving and "tall cafe mocha with two equals from Starbucks. Please provide any advice you can. Also, I pump anywhere from 38-48 ounces (depending on how many times I pump with nursing) daily.

Thank you so much!!!

Re: Weight loss
by: Elsabe

"First of all, high five from a fellow twin mom on achieving your breastfeeding goal and doing well!

All my life, my weight has pretty much remained the same. I tended to verge on the underweight side, actually. But now, after my twincesses I'm going through a phase I've never known before (also second pregnancy).

At first, I lost too much weight. I only gained 12kg during my twin pregnancy but lost 20kg during the first six months, which made me fall into the underweight category. It scared me a bit when I realized what a toll caring for twins - plus one took on my body. But breastfeeding them was too important for me, so I just continued and made a point of eating more and better. Actually, it became easier once they started solids.

My goal was to breastfeed them for two years. We've exceeded that; they are now 2yrs 7mths, but for the past three months (I think), only one of my twincesses is still interested in having boobie, and we're only doing it 2-3 times a week.

My weight is busy rocketing, and I feel really uncomfortable in my skin. Even though I'm eating much less than I did while breastfeeding them often every day, I keep adding on the pounds!

I've even swapped wardrobes with my sister, who has been a size or two bigger than me all our lives. Not that the better fitting clothes are helping much for physically feeling uncomfortable.

I also have to add that I have never been a very active or sporty person. So I think you have a much greater advantage in that area. Don't stop doing it!

My mom's friend and my mom's sister both had twins. They told me that once you stop breastfeeding, your weight easily skyrockets, but I thought it wouldn't happen to me - since weight gain was never an issue for me. How very wrong I was... It's now happening.

So, even though I don't have any solid advice for you, I want you to be aware of this fact.

Your body after one baby is one thing. Your body after two babies at once is a whole different thing!! Your body changes much more than you think.

Hope this helps you in some way. Keep being such an awesome mom!"

Can't Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
by Lisa

"I started off 105, 5'3, and by the end of my pregnancy, I was 148.

I lost about 20 pounds in the first month, which was all fluids because everything measured the same!

I've been breastfeeding for four months and planned to for as long as my daughter wants.

It's hard, though, because I know my body is just hanging on to the extra weight until I wean. I eat so healthily. It's not my fault."

Re: Can't Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
by: Tammy

"Hi, I found the same, except I don't think it has anything to do with breastfeeding. I think our bodies change after childbirth, making it a little more difficult to lose weight?! It doesn't make sense to me that breastfeeding would prevent weight loss since you use extra calories to produce breast milk."

Re: Me Neither.
by: Amy

"I have an 8-month-old who I breastfed exclusively for six months and still do about 4-5 times a day.

I am a Registered Dietitian, so I am very aware of the calories I eat. I have tried limiting them, eating to hunger, and eating, however much I want with no restrictions - all the same result of no loss, no gain, just stable.

I introduced solids at around six months, which came with SOME weight loss, about 8 of the 18 lbs I have lost since giving birth.

I am holding on to hope that once my period comes back and hormone levels even out again, I will be able to slowly shake off those last few lbs.

Also worth mentioning, I have been moderately active since he was at least two months old (hour-long walks and strength training).

Hang in there and try not to let it bother you too much, but I feel your frustration!"

Losing Too Much Too Fast
by Rachel (Indiana)

"I have an almost 4-month-old. I lost nearly all of my pregnancy weight by my six weeks check-up.

I have not exercised one bit; I eat three meals daily and snack in between. I have always been a tall, thin woman, but I am a little concerned.

Since my six-week check-up, I feel as though I am still losing weight. I started eating (exclusively pumping around eight weeks due to flat nipples). I am still doing so, but my little one seems to be increasing his appetite.

So here are my concerns, I feel like I am not supplying enough milk for him. I used all I had frozen for five weeks, about 60 ounces. And I feel like I have lost too much weight.

Pre-pregnancy I weighed 136 lbs, and I am nearly 6' tall. I gained 35 lbs during my pregnancy, lost every bit of it by my six-week check-up, and have lost several more lbs since then.

None of my clothes fit, and my pants fall off of me. I know that most women complain about not losing enough weight, but I am worried that I am losing too much.

I have always been a stick of a woman, and I enjoyed having some curves for once. I have always had a high metabolism; I eat a lot.

I'm unsure what to do about the weight and my milk supply. I wonder if they are linked?"