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Weight Loss and The Nursing Mother - 0 Comments

Many women are eager to get back to their pre-pregnancy shape as soon as possible. But there is information every nursing mother should know before she attempts to lose weight.

Nursing can help you recover more quickly from childbirth. Nursing stimulates the release of hormones that help your uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy shape and size. Nursing also helps to protect you from the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging.And nursing can help you lose weight without "dieting."

The "average" woman (5'4", 120 lbs.) requires a caloric intake of 2000 calories to maintain her weight, plus an additional 500-800 calories to produce milk for her baby. The fat stores your body collected during pregnancy are the primary source of energy to sustain nursing. Everyone's metabolism is different, which affects how each one of us bums calories and excess fat. Some women lose their excess pregnancy weight quickly, while others may have it after one year. It generally takes 9 to 12 months for your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state.

Improper dieting can decrease your milk supply. Adequate calories and nutrients are essential to produce what your baby requires. Depending on the size of your infant, you will produce 450-1000 ml (approximately 15-35 ounces) of milk each day. To sustain this, you will require 45-50 additional calories per day for each pound your infant weighs.

We do not recommend fad diets or diet "aids;" these may be harmful to your health and your baby's health. These diets may restrict certain types of foods that contain important nutrients or may be too low in calories. Weight loss of more than 1 pound per week is usually not permanent loss and can send you on a roller coaster ride of gaining and losing. In addition, rapid weight loss during nursing can cause the mobilization of inert pesticides stored in fat cells, and transfers these to your milk. Diet drinks and diet programs may be too restrictive for the nursing mother. Always consult your obstetrician or your child's pediatrician before undertaking any weight loss program.

Your body will usually pass on any medications, drugs, or megavitamin doses to your baby through your milk. The nursing-safety of a medication is usually determined by the degree to which it affects your baby. Always consult your obstetrician, pediatrician, or a pharmacist before using these.

Breastfeeding increases your appetite. This may seem to make it impossible to lose weight, but remember the large number of additional calories required (500-800 daily) for milk production.


How do you begin smart and safe dieting?

Educate yourself on the calorie content of the foods you eat. Read labels and consult a calorie guide. Losing weight is a numbers game. Weight loss equals calories expended minus calories consumed. Calories are expended by your metabolism, milk production, your activity level, and exercise.

·        Start a journal to keep a record of the foods you eat for a few days. You may discover you can easily eliminate some poor food choices or correct some detrimental eating habits.

·        Eat a variety of foods with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables; low fat milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, whole grain breads and cereals that are rich in Vitamins. De-emphasize the role of high-fat meats in your menu planning. Don't waste calories on high-fat or high-sugar foods. A decrease in the fat content of your diet will result in a regular weight loss. In one study at Cornell University, 13 women ate as much as they wanted of 41 low-fat foods for snacks and meals. In 11 weeks, they lost an average of 5 1/2 pounds without hunger pangs, cravings or depression.

Try to incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine. Exercise burns calories, helps relieve stress, and will help you feel good about yourself. This can increase your chances of successfully losing weight.

Don't depend on artificial sweeteners to keep your calorie count down. The nursing-safety of these products is not well proven. Instead, reeducate your sweet tooth by decreasing the amount of sugar in recipes using sugar. Choose less-sweetened breakfast cereals. Choose jams sweetened with fruit juices. Add your own fruit to plain yogurt instead of buying sweetened yogurts. Choose treats that are less sugary, such as cinnamon raisin bagels instead of donuts, fruit muffins instead of cake, and graham crackers instead of chocolate chip cookies. Soon you will prefer the less-sweetened choices.

Continue to nurse while dieting! This is actually an ideal time to begin a weight loss plan, since lactation actually increases the mobilization of fat stores from hips and thighs.

Remember that patience in losing weight will pay off. Successful weight loss occurs over a period of time. Ideally the nursing mother should lose no more than one pound per week. Instead of focusing on the desire to be slim, focus on the needs of your baby and the other members of your family. By establishing healthy eating habits you are also passing good habits on to your family.

For more information, consult a registered dietitian or visit your local bookstore. There are many excellent books on "Cooking Light" and nutrition education. The local Weight Watchers group has a plan for lactating mothers and helps to form new lifetime eating habits.

Good luck!