If you’re a new mom, things are changing at lightning speed. You’ve been sharing your body for nearly a year with another person you’ve helped create from scratch.
Once you bring your child home, you may want to be comfortable in some of your pre-pregnancy clothes—and your own skin. You might even wonder if it’s okay to diet while nursing.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what your body—and your baby’s body—needs when you’re nursing. We’ll also talk about how you can achieve your post-pregnancy goals without compromising you or your baby’s health.
Nursing a newborn is no joke. A new mom can expect to nurse 5–8 hours a day during the first month of motherhood. That’s, basically, a full-time job that consists of keeping your baby fed, healthy, and happy.
Unsurprisingly, your body’s needs during this time are quite significant. You may be itching to retire your maternity clothes, but don’t rush to restricting calories to diet while nursing. Your body needs those calories to help nourish your baby.
In fact, your body will need 300–500 more calories every day to produce milk. You actually require more calories when producing milk than you needed while pregnant.
Not only do you want to take in those extra calories, you also want to take in the right kind of calories. Reach for extra proteins and vitamin-packed snacks like fruits and vegetables.
You may be wondering how soon after delivery you can get to dieting and exercising and if you can diet while nursing. The truth is, there’s not a single answer that will be right for every woman or every baby.
Always discuss your exercise plans with your doctor first. Many women are cleared for exercise around 6 weeks postpartum. Know that dieting and exercising too soon after delivery can actually be harmful.
Your baby’s health, growth rate, and nursing ability may also be factors as you determine when to move forward with your plans to diet while breastfeeding. Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Restricting your calories isn’t the only way you can help get back to a shape you’re more comfortable with. Here are some great alternatives to a traditional diet while breastfeeding:
The kind of foods you eat can impact the quality and quantity of your milk. If you’re a nursing mom, be sure to keep these foods on the menu:
While you’re planning your menu, make sure you aren’t skipping any meals. Skipping meals can lead to a more inefficient use of your calories and may actually prevent weight loss. To successfully diet while nursing, keep eating meals at regular intervals.
In between meals, reach for a snack. Choosing healthy snacks can help keep your energy up and your metabolism firing. Snacks should contain a mixture of protein and complex carbs to be most beneficial to your weight-loss journey.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on your weight-loss journey post pregnancy:
Weight loss is possible while nursing. If you’re eating well and working in some physical exercise, you can expect to safely lose 1 pound per week.
If you’re already crunching numbers in your head, keep the following in mind. This 1 pound of weight loss a week can be fairly easily achieved. Simply add in a 15-minute walk every day and stick with healthy eating habits.
You can lose 4 pounds a month and hardly interrupt or change your regular routine, meaning you won’t need to actually go on a diet while nursing.
As time goes by you may be ready to add more aggressive workouts to your schedule. Your child will likely be sleeping in longer stretches at night (and you will be, too). You’ll have started slowly and built back up your muscle and endurance. As you increase your physical activity, you may find you begin to lose more than 1 pound a week.
Being a new mom is hard enough—don’t punish yourself with unrealistic goals or expectations. Take your time when it comes to pursuing a diet while nursing.
Make the right food choices and stay active and it will happen for you. In the meantime, try to enjoy motherhood and these early months with your little one, keeping you both happy and healthy.
Cristin is a co-founder of SmartParentAdvice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.