How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
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Many new moms struggle with losing weight after having a baby. Breastfeeding can help you kickstart that process, but how many calories does breastfeeding burn?
In This Guide
- Why Breastfeeding Helps Some Women Lose Weight
- How Many Calories Do You Burn While Breastfeeding
- Why You Might Not Be Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
- How To Lose Weight When Breastfeeding
- Important Information About Caloric Deficits And Milk Supply
After you have your baby, you will lose a little weight right away. After that, weight loss varies from woman to woman. For some women, the pounds just melt off but unfortunately, that’s not how it works for most mothers.
Most women worry about not being able to lose all the weight they gain. With little babies taking up most of their times, working out and eating healthy seems too overwhelming so they just grab whatever is easiest to put together and eat and relax for a bit before the next round of responsibilities rears its head.
Breastfeeding can help kickstart the weight loss process, but you’ll need to help it along a little.
If you’re ready to get healthy and shed those extra pounds, then this post is for you!
Which brings us to the question of: “How many calories does breastfeeding burn?”. Let’s have a look.
Why Breastfeeding Helps Some Women Lose Weight
Breastfeeding is often considered nature’s way of helping new moms lose their baby weight.
When you breastfeed, you use fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy — along with calories from your diet — to fuel your milk production and feed your baby (source). Weight loss during breastfeeding can occur even when you follow the recommendations to eat an additional 300 to 500 calories a day to keep up your energy and milk production.
This may explain why breastfeeding mothers tend to lose their baby weight faster than women who don’t breastfeed.
In one study, women who breastfed exclusively for at least three months lost 3.2 pounds (1.5 kg) more in the first year than those who formula-fed or supplemented with formula. What’s more, the longer the mother breastfed, the stronger the effect (source).
Breastfeeding women did also appear to achieve their pre-pregnancy weight on average six months earlier than those who formula-feed (source).
How Many Calories Do You Burn While Breastfeeding
Nursing your baby takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s no surprise that breastfeeding burns calories.
On average, breastfeeding can burn between 200-500 calories a day, but the actual amount will depend on a few factors:
- How many times a day you’re breastfeeding and whether you’re combining breastfeeding and formula feeding.
- If you are making an abundant supply of breast milk or if you have a low milk supply.
- How old your child is. You will burn more calories frequently breastfeeding a younger child, and fewer calories when your baby is older, taking in more solid foods, and not breastfeeding as much.
It takes roughly 20 calories to produce 1 oz. of milk (source). For the average 150-pound woman, this means that breastfeeding burns approximately 500 calories per day.
In comparison, 30 minutes of light housework would burn 246 calories, and 30 minutes of running would burn 328 calories.
Because many new mothers are too exhausted to think about cleaning or engaging in a formal exercise program during the first months of their child’s life, breastfeeding is a convenient way to burn calories.
Why You Might Not Be Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
Losing weight while breastfeeding may not be equally easy for all mothers. There are some reasons why breastfeeding may not be working for you:
Prolactin is a hormone that is increasingly known as the “fat-storing hormone”. It’s the hormone that tells your body to make milk but it will also increase your appetite (source).
Prolactin is raised during pregnancy and is secreted to stimulate milk production during breastfeeding. In other words, it helps mom make milk for the baby.
This increase in your hunger levels can cause you to eat more calories than are needed for milk production — compensating for the extra calorie burn of breastfeeding (source). Those extra calories could cause you to gain weight, instead of losing it.
Sleep deprivation, something that so many of us experience as new parents, is another known factor for increased hunger and appetite — both of which may make it harder to lose weight (source).
Being well-rested helps all your body’s hormonal and metabolic systems run more efficiently (source). Although it may be easier said than done, rest is what your body needs. With your body working optimally, you’re more likely to find that healthy weight.
The adrenal glands are a pair of glands located above the kidneys. These glands help the body regulate stress, metabolism, and blood sugar levels.
Lack of sleep and added stress related to becoming a new mom may add stress to the adrenal glands, causing a condition called “adrenal fatigue” which is considered a minor form of adrenal insufficiency.
A side effect of adrenal fatigue is feeling sluggish and tired which doesn’t help fire your metabolism (source).
Keep In Mind
Most new mothers are no strangers to feeling tired and hungry but if your adrenals are playing a role, your doctor should be able to determine that through testing.
How To Lose Weight When Breastfeeding
Now that you know what may be holding you back from losing those unwanted pounds, what can you do about it? Here are a few ideas that may help you out:
1 Drink Lots of Water
Your body is up to 70 percent water, therefore, drinking plenty of water every day is one of the best things you can do for the overall health of your body — whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.
It’s especially important for breastfeeding moms. When you’re breastfeeding, your milk supply is sucking up a lot of the water you’re consuming, so you need to keep a steady supply coming in.
Water helps your body naturally shed unwanted pounds because, water:
- Contributes to regular body functions like circulation, digestion, regulation of body temperature, transportation of nutrients, and milk production
- Assists your kidneys and makes it easier to keep your body toxin free
- Helps you feel fuller longer and prevents overeating
Aim to drink at least eight cups of water every day:
- Start by drinking two cups first thing in the morning
- Next, drink two cups each at lunch and dinner — that’s six cups
- Then, to get the last two cups, fill a water bottle with 16 ounces of water and sip on it throughout the day
Not a water drinker? Try an infusion bottle that will allow you to add a hint of fruit!
Just make sure whichever drink you choose doesn’t have added sugar because it can make its way to your baby through your breast milk.
2 Eat Healthy
While breastfeeding, you will need to make sure that you’re eating enough of nutrient-rich foods for yourself and your baby, but first, you need to make sure you’re getting enough calories. You’re already burning plenty of calories while breastfeeding, and when you throw in exercising, it could lead to problems if you’re not careful.
You will need to add an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to your diet when breastfeeding, bringing your total daily consumption to between 2,200 and 2,500 calories.
Here are some guidelines for eating a healthy diet:
- Fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your caloric intake to make sure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals. If you can cut the excess sugar, it will be beneficial to you and the baby as well (source). Furthermore, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins are important during this time.
- Lean protein can be found in foods like chicken, fish, beans, and protein powders and should be part of your diet every day.
- Healthy fats are important for both you and your baby when you’re breastfeeding. It may seem counterintuitive to purposely add fat to your diet while trying to lose weight, but you can find these good fats in foods such as almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds. chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados.
Planning your meals in advance is not only a good idea in relation to saving time, but it’s also a good idea for the sake of your health. When you plan and prepare your meals ahead of time, you won’t be tempted to eat more than you have.
It’s completely normal to get extra hungry and stay hungry while you’re breastfeeding but by following these guidelines for healthy eating will ensure you’re consuming the right kind of calories.
3 Get as Much Sleep as You Can
It may be easier said than done, but your body needs rest. Being well-rested helps all your body’s hormonal and metabolic systems run more efficiently (source). When you’re asleep, your body repairs itself and returns to a healthier state.
So even if you’re doing everything else on this list right but you fail to sleep enough each night, you may struggle to lose those last few pounds. With your body working optimally, you’re more likely to find that healthy weight.
Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night but if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night just yet, make it a point to nap when she naps. This will give your body the time it needs to recover and stay as healthy as possible.
Another benefit of being well-rested is that it can help curb junk food cravings (source).
4 Incorporate Moderate Exercise
When we think of exercise, we too often picture ourselves going to the gym or running long distances. With a breastfeeding infant, though, those activities can be all but impossible. A combination of cardio with some strength training will keep things running nicely.
While cardio is great for the health of your heart, lungs, circulation, and will help you burn off excess fat, the weight-bearing exercises will help you strengthen your muscles and bones.
Muscles use more energy than fat stores, meaning that you’ll burn more energy the greater muscle mass you have (source). So, not only will you look more lean and toned and feel great, you may actually lose weight just by being more muscular.
Try to be active at least 30 minutes every day, even if all you can manage is a brisk walk while pushing your baby in a stroller. Walking is a low-impact exercise that can raise your heart rate without negatively impacting your knees or joints.
It’s important that you wait at least six to eight weeks before starting or restarting a serious exercise regimen. Extreme dieting and exercise can impact your body’s ability to produce healthy milk.
Important Information About Caloric Deficits And Milk Supply
Before you start to change your diet and start exercising to lose he baby weight, there’s a very important correlation between caloric deficits and milk supply you should also be aware of.
The less calories you take in during a 24 hour period and the larger your caloric deficit is as a result during that time frame, the lower your milk supply is going to be (source).
This is important for you to know since having a low milk supply will make it almost impossible for you to meet your baby’s nutritional needs through breastfeeding alone, meaning you’ll have to supplement with formula in the sessions you’re not able to supply breast milk.
So, now that you know exactly how much calories breastfeeding in and of itself burns in a 24 hour time frame, strive to not go overboard with your diet and limiting food too much so that you don’t end up with a huge caloric deficit that prevents you from properly breastfeeding your child.
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS?
You just had a baby! Take a few minutes to appreciate the awesome thing that your body just did. Now, give it the time it needs to heal and get back to normal.
Once you’re ready to get back into shape, implement these healthier eating tips, and don’t forget to eat the extra calories you need while breastfeeding. Stick to a healthy eating plan, get as much rest as possible, and fit in exercise where you can.
Even though you most likely will not drop every pound though breastfeeding only, keep in mind that breastfeeding offers many other benefits for both you and your child and it will help you bond with your baby, and that’s the most important part.