Alissa Carpio, The Fit Freelancer, is a Health & Fitness Writer, fitness competitor and full-time mommy of two preschool-aged boys. A personal trainer for over twelve years, Alissa enjoys using her wealth of fitness knowledge along with her personal experience to inform and inspire moms to fitness. You can check out her blog at www.alissacarpio.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
Whether you’re about to become a first-time mom or you’re preparing for baby number two, three, or beyond, getting back into exercise and losing the baby weight is probably a concern. If you’re considering breastfeeding, that adds another factor into the mix. The good news is, many new moms successfully breastfeed their babies while resuming an exercise program and consistently losing weight. I was thrilled to be able to nurse my two boys for over a year and lose the baby weight by five months postpartum in both cases. Here’s a little science, a little research, and a little personal experience regarding exercise and weight loss while breastfeeding.
Postpartum Weight Loss
Immediately after giving birth, the act of breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones which help the uterus contract back to pre-pregnancy size much more quickly than if the mother does not breastfeed.
Research has shown that high estrogen levels can cause weight gain due to sodium and water retention. While some studies show that estrogen may cause weight gain as well, research is not conclusive in this area. Breastfeeding suppresses estrogen levels, and can aid in weight loss.
It’s estimated that your body burns 20 calories for every ounce of breast milk produced. Depending on your baby’s feeding demand, that’s anywhere from 400 to 800 calories a day! Try burning that without a super-tough gym workout. There’s no other way to do it!
Women naturally store more fat on their hips and thighs due to high lipoprotein lipase activity and low lipolytic activity (fat breakdown) in that area. The only time in a woman’s life when lipolytic activity is high and lipoprotein lipase activity is low – the reverse – is during the third trimester of pregnancy and during lactation. Therefore, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the longer she can reap the benefits of increased fat burning from her hips and thighs! Breastfeeding truly is an all-natural fat-burner!
It is possible to breastfeed and still get back to your old fitness junkie self! A major concern is to ensure your milk supply stays adequate. It’s important to stay hydrated and consume extra calories throughout lactation. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to consume enough clean, nutrient-dense calories to fuel your baby, too. Aim for a safe weight loss of 1 – 2 lbs. per week. Pay attention to your baby’s feeding schedule and hunger cues, as well as weight gain, to make sure he’s getting all the food he needs.
Some sources say that the buildup of lactic acid from increased exercise can cause babies to refuse their mother’s milk. If you notice this with your baby, ease back on the frequency and intensity of your training for a while until baby gets used to the changing taste of your milk.
Keeping your breasts comfortable while working out is another major concern. Find a well-fitting sports bra to ensure your bigger additions are happy and aren’t adding strain to your back and neck muscles. Try to nurse your baby right before starting your workout so that your breasts are empty and more comfortable for exercise.
I found two bras that worked great for me while nursing and exercising. The first, a maternity sports bra by Motherhood Maternity, fit well with adjustable straps and was ideal for low- to medium-impact activities. The other – the Fiona by Moving Comfort – is a nursing-friendly sports bra offering lift-away straps and an adjustable band for unbeatable support for high-impact activities.
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