Do You Always Lose Weight With Breastfeeding?

By Sharon Perkins
Nursing your baby can help you lose weight, but you still need to watch your calorie intake.
Nursing your baby can help you lose weight, but you still need to watch your calorie intake.

New moms often see breastfeeding as a quick way to lose weight, but breastfeeding and postpartum weight loss don't always go hand-in-hand. If you consume more calories than you burn, you won't lose weight, even if you're breastfeeding quadruplets. Losing weight in a healthy way as a nursing mom means using against the extra calories you burn while breastfeeding as a way to reduce calorie intake without dieting.

Extra Calories Needed

Breastfeeding burns extra calories because it takes calories to make milk. Milk production burns between 400 and 500 additional calories per day, according to If your weight was stable before you got pregnant, eating exactly as you did then while breastfeeding will burn around 3,500 calories each week, or around 1 pound.

Going Over the Limits

While weight loss can be a complex topic, most experts believe that if calories in equals calories out, your weight stays stable. Eat less than you burn and you'll lose weight. If you feel that breastfeeding gives you carte blanche to eat whatever you want because you're going to burn it off anyway, you will probably be sorely disappointed in how long it takes you to lose weight postpartum. If breastfeeding makes you hungry -- which it might-- limit your extra calories to no more than 500 per day or you might find the numbers going up, rather than down, on the scale.

Typical Losses

If this is your first baby, getting on the scale after you deliver can be a disappointment. Delivering the baby doesn't knock off as many pounds as you might hope; depending on what your baby weighed, the scales might drop by only around 10 pounds by the time you leave the hospital with your baby, reports. After that, the average postpartum loss for nursing moms is 1.3 to 1.8 pounds per month for the first four to six months, according to the Institute of Medicine Subcommittee on Nutrition During Lactation.

Safe Weight Loss

It's not a good idea to push postpartum weight loss by cutting calories too much while nursing. You're not likely to decrease your milk supply if you go too low on your calorie count; your baby will take what he needs. But your own body could suffer from the calorie deficit; you might find yourself becoming fatigued or irritable, two problems that often plague even well-nourished new moms. Plan to lose no more than 4.5 pounds per month, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals recommends. Wait until around six weeks after delivery before cutting back on calorie intake, La Leche League International advises; you need adequate calorie intake to repair damaged tissues after delivery. Exercise can also help burn a few extra calories whenever you're up to it.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.