You did the research. You exercised and ate well during pregnancy. You’ve even been surviving pretty well with a newborn since you gave birth. You even heard that the weight just “falls off” while you’re breastfeeding! But you’re still not losing your weight postpartum while breastfeeding, and you’re starting to get frustrated.
There could be many different reasons for not losing the baby weight since you gave birth, but there are five common reasons you’re still packing on the pounds.
Let’s take a look at each reason you’re not losing weight while nursing a baby and some possible solutions.
*For the purposes of this article, I will continue to use the terms breastfeeding, nursing, and chestfeeding interchangeably. The terminology is changing to become more trans-inclusive, which I wholeheartedly support.
Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding? These Can Help
1. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Gee, I wonder why!
Having a baby, or even a toddler who’s still nursing, can be exhausting. Here are a few things that could potentially mess with your sleep cycles:
- Baby still likes nursing in the middle of the night.
- You’re NOT co-sleeping.
- You’re working and need to get up at a certain time.
- Baby has reflux.
There are, of course, other things, poopy diapers, diaper rash, colds, blocked milk ducts, and other things that can impact the quality of baby’s sleep.
Here’s what WebMD has to say about lack of sleep affecting your weight loss goals:
It’s true: Being short on sleep can really affect your weight. While you weren’t sleeping, your body cooked up a perfect recipe for weight gain.
People who are sleep-deprived snack significantly more, so when you’re not getting your Zz’s, you’re probably also eating too many simple carbs.
The Solution: Set Some Time Aside For Rest
Sometimes, you need help. And it’s okay to accept help from others, whether that be from your partner, mother-in-law, or some friends.
Whether it means sleeping in on the weekend and letting your husband bottle-feed in the early morning, or having your mom over for a couple hours so you can take a nap, you need your sleep if you want to lose weight!
2. You’re Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding Because You’re Getting Too Many Calories
Our bodies need around 500 extra calories a day when we’re chestfeeding, but sometimes our appetites are bigger than our needs.
What’s worse: our bodies crave quick calories like sugar and simple carbs to keep us going and keep our milk supply high. But those low-quality calories only serve as energy and fail to give you any nutrition, making you feel like you need to eat more.
On top of this, with the widespread myth that the “weight will just fall right off”, women have a tendency to overestimate what they can eat.
The Solution: Get Enough Protein and Healthy Fats
Eat to make yourself full! Proteins and fats, like eggs, avocado, chicken, fish, or olive oil, stay in our stomachs longer than carbohydrates do, making you feel fuller longer.
Our standard American diets typically include so many carbs in the form of bread, cereal, chips, cookies, cereal bars, crackers, and all kinds of snacks. But these kinds of refined carbohydrates get digested quickly and they lack the same nutrient density of things like vegetables, fruits, and meats.
If you make a conscious effort to get more high quality calories, you’ll feel fuller and won’t get hungry as often.
3. You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
When you’re breastfeeding you need a lot of water. In fact, breast milk is 90% water.
But unfortunately, our bodies don’t have a very well-tuned thirst response, and it’s completely normal to think you’re hungry when you’re really thirsty.
So when you’re chestfeeding, you need about 128 ounces of water per day, depending on other factors. If it’s summertime and you spend a lot of time outdoors, or if you live in a dry climate, you may need even more.
For those of you doing the math, that’s right about a gallon of water per day when you’re nursing.
Not only can being dehydrated cause unwanted weight gain, it can also contribute to things like muscle cramps and moodiness, but also to clogged ducts. If you’ve never had a clogged duct before, they can be incredibly painful, and you certainly want to avoid them.
Dehydration can definitely contribute to weight gain and inability to lose weight.
The Solution: Count Your Water, Every Day
If your water bottle is 32 ounces, you should be drinking one water bottle full about every 4 hours while you are awake.
If your water bottle is 20 ounces, then you’re looking at 1 water bottle every 2.5 hours.
Be very dedicated to getting enough water throughout the day and you’ll be looking at an easy time losing weight while breastfeeding.
4. You’re Not Losing Weight While Chestfeeding Because You’re Not Moving Enough
Evolutionarily, a woman who was breastfeeding still needed to out run that tiger or survive a long winter. It served us well that our metabolism would slow down if our survival was at stake for both ourselves and our newborn.
But in today’s world, where humans sit pretty at the top of the food chain, food is plentiful in most areas of developed countries, and our televisions and phones make it easy to sit for hours on end, having a slow metabolism can mean a lot of extra poundage.
And let’s be real. When you’re nursing, you’re sitting down every few hours and nursing a baby for potentially a long time. Especially when that baby is a newborn, they probably nurse, fall asleep on you, and you don’t want to put them down.
You’re probably sitting for long periods of the day.
Combine that with not wanting to go out and baby catching a cold or the flu, not sleeping enough yourself, or just being exhausted and overwhelmed by being a new mom, it’s super easy to sit on the couch all day and binge-watch Game of Thrones while baby sleeps on you or nurses.
But if you want to lose weight, you need to move your body.
The Solution: Exercise at Home or Find Easy Ways to Get Out and Move
Treadmill, exercise bikes, YouTube fitness videos, Beachbody… there are so many great options for moving at home.
Even just putting baby in the stroller and going on a walk through the neighborhood or park can have a huge affect on your metabolism and weight loss. YES, you can lose weight by walking.
5. You’re Not Losing Weight While Nursing Because You’re Stressed Out
Having a baby is a glorious and wonderful time, but it’s also incredibly stressful.
You’re getting used to having a new human in your home, navigating your relationship with your partner in a completely new way, adapting to the changes in your body, making huge decisions about your career, home-life, and future … phew, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little down.
Stress hormones have well-known effects for allowing our parasympathetic nervous system to take over and shutting down our metabolism.
And thankfully, postpartum depression has gotten a lot more attention and awareness in recent years. But you don’t even have to suffer from postpartum depression to feel overwhelmed or stressed out by this new era in your life.
The Solution: Practice Meditation or Deep Breathing
Meditation and learning to stay in the present moment can do wonders for your stress.
Now if you think you’re just going to add meditation to your morning routine and lose a bunch of weight, it’s not going to happen. You have to combine meditation, deep breathing, or self-hypnosis with other things from this list, like trying to get more sleep, moving your body, and watching the quality of calories that you’re taking in.
Here’s a really helpful postpartum meditation video:
You can also try affirmations to help you lose weight. They’re a great way to stay positive and mindful.
If you feel stuck, there are definitely ways you can get help if you’re not losing weight while breastfeeding. Follow these 5 tips to make some small changes in your life to start seeing big changes!
Good luck with your postpartum journey!
If you’re looking for a program designed for healthy living (with real food!) that can propel your weight loss, check out Arbonne’s 30 Days to Healthy Living. It’s perfectly safe for breastfeeding with a few tweaks!