Your body goes through many changes after bringing your baby into the world. Breastfeeding also involves physical modifications to be able to feed your child. But what happens when this stage ends? You may wonder if stopping breastfeeding causes you to gain weight. We will tell you what is happening.
Surely you have heard that breastfeeding helps you lose the kilos you gained during pregnancy, and it is true; there is a relationship between breastfeeding and weight loss, as indicated by the study Breastfeeding reduces postpartum weight retention.
Research reveals that breastfeeding helps lose the kilos gained during pregnancy, especially in the first six months after giving birth; however, this depends on the Body Mass Index (BMI) that you had before getting pregnant, how long you breastfeed your baby, and what you eat during these stages.
Elizabeth LaFleur, a lactation consultant, and Mayo Clinic fellow, says that when you breastfeed, you use fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy and calories from your diet to stimulate milk production and feed your baby.
“Weight loss during lactation can occur even when you follow the recommendations to consume an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to maintain energy and milk production.”
What happens when I stop breastfeeding?
Are you wondering if stopping breastfeeding causes you to gain weight? When you breastfeed, you should know that you burn around 500 calories a day to produce breast milk; it makes you more hungry than usual, so you eat more. Once you stop lactating, your needs change, but your body is used to consuming those extra calories, explains nutritionist Paola Figari.
“This is the most difficult thing, to stop eating the largest or most frequent portions you have been eating for nine months of pregnancy, plus the lactating time. This change can take time because you need to know your body and its needs again, so don’t pressure yourself to do it quickly.”
The hormonal changes that occur after breastfeeding alter your metabolism. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for producing breast milk, is reduced, and, in its place, estrogen levels rise. Therefore, your body continues to send hunger signals, Figari details.
“Although your priorities often focus on taking care of your baby, it is essential that you do not leave your health aside. Getting back into a healthy eating and exercise routine can take time, but you can do it with help and inner work.”
She advises having foods rich in nutrients, keeping a balanced diet, and incorporating cardio and resistance exercises, which will help you level hormonal imbalances.
How can you control your weight after breastfeeding?
“It is important that you consider that there is an immediate weight loss of approximately 6 kilos after childbirth. After this, you will lose the rest little by little, around 400 and 900 grams per month, during the first six months after delivery, and then it will be even slower”, says Elizabeth LaFleur.
“It often takes six to nine months to lose the weight gained during pregnancy.”
LaFleur recommends keeping a healthy diet with a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Avoid foods with added sugars and saturated fats such as soft drinks, desserts, cheeses, whole milk, and fatty meats. You can also do moderate physical activity.
“If you want to lose more weight after six months of breastfeeding, you can carefully restrict your calories as your baby begins to eat more solid foods while you continue to breastfeed.”
Remember that each body is different and that a balanced diet and physical activity are key to losing weight. Do not hesitate to ask for help, approach a specialist.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara
Spanish versión: Here