Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

girl with apple, healthy diet

Breastfeeding can burn between 200 and 1000 calories daily, depending on your baby’s (or babies) appetite and age. 

Breastfeeding Calorie Calculator found here

For those of you who are not familiar with how many calories you burn in the gym, those calories would take quite some effort to burn off. For example, it would take 1 hour and 45 minutes of dancing or 1 and a half hours of aerobics to burn off 1000 calories!

What’s more, is that your body needs an extra 200-500 calories daily to keep you healthy while breastfeeding! (Depending on your BMI)

Research shows that moms who breastfeed, lose the weight picked up during pregnancy much faster than moms who formula feed their babies. 

One of the reasons why mothers pick up weight during pregnancy is for fat stores needed during breastfeeding. So what happens if you don’t breastfeed? The fat stores stay right where they are.

So what if the Fat is just not coming off?

"I know what it feels like to give birth and realize two years later that you still haven't lost the postpartum weight! The only thing that helped me was exercise and calorie counting.

This way you can keep tabs on what you are eating and see your progress. I use a free online program called Sparkpeople. Slow, steady breastfeeding and weight loss will ensure that you do not pick it up again, plus some. Doing things slowly and sensibly will ensure that you can be a happy mother, wife and a person that has energy and feels great. Remember that the journey there is more important than the destination. Read how I did it below." by Tracy Behr (South Africa, Cape Town)

When some mothers have managed to get most of the weight off, they struggle with those last few postpartum pounds. You should continue with your weight loss efforts and know that you are still losing inches.

When your baby goes through a growth spurt, it can signal your body to keep some extra fat stores for your baby’s nourishment. Stay away from stress eating, and as soon as you and your baby start to wean, the last few pounds should drop off quickly.

What Types of Food should you Eat for Weight Loss while Breastfeeding?

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat foods. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

Some good foods to eat while breastfeeding: oatmeal (will increase milk supply), lean protein, salad greens, mango, banana, and pineapples. You can eat anything you want as long as it is in moderation.

Eating Healthy while Breastfeeding

For weight loss while breastfeeding:

  • Consume quality calories with few fats and sugars.
  • Change your exercise routine continuously.
  • Manage stress well: Research shows that people who stress will experience a harder time at getting rid of tummy fat!
  • Get eight hours of sleep every 24 hours.
  • Do some body strength training: When your body consists of a higher muscle percentage, the fat is burned off easier.
  • Do not supplement your baby with anything, let your baby breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months. 
  • Exercise three times per week, for an hour each time. Weight loss without exercise is also possible, as long as the mother doesn’t exceed her calorie balance.
baby, mommy and baby, mom holding baby

No Weight Loss while Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding weight gain

Many women might feel that breastfeeding is making them retain or pick up extra weight, the truth is, most mothers are quite stressed out after having a baby and might resort to food as a stress reliever.

Breastfeeding cannot make you pick up weight. It may keep you from losing your last few pounds, but that’s about it.

Some mothers only start losing the weight after six months of breastfeeding, but the weight does eventually come off. Keep breastfeeding, after the six-month mark; the weight should come off easily.

Is Following a Keto Diet while Breastrfeeding Safe?

Interesting Facts

  • Breastfeeding mothers who consume only when hungry can lose an extra 0.5kg per month more than mothers who are not breastfeeding.
  • Losing weight too quickly (more than 2,5 kg weekly) can cause the release of harmful toxins into your breast milk.
  • Moms who breastfeed seem to lose weight easier on their hips, buns, and thighs compared to moms who formula feed.

My Weight loss Plan

I am not a dietitian, only a wellness coach in the making. Please use my information in conjunction with your research.

When you are a breastfeeding mom, you need to take into account the number of calories your body needs to feed your baby, before you can work out a breastfeeding weight loss plan for yourself.

How to Start

First, find out what your basal metabolic rate is (the number of calories your body needs every day for basic functions) Work this out here... An accurate BMR calculator.

Then go over to’s calorie calculator, this will tell you how many calories you need extra per day for breastfeeding (specific to each person).

Once you have that amount, you can add your basal metabolic rate amount to the extra amount needed for breastfeeding, and then minus 500 (required to lose weight). The amount you are left with will be the number of calories you need to eat every day to lose weight while breastfeeding healthily.

An example:

My basal metabolic rate is 1700 (that's how many calories I use per day to live)

I produce 24 ounces of milk per day, and my baby is four months old. Therefore I need an extra 225 calories per day. (work it out here)

1700 + 225 = 1925

1925 - 500 (needed for weight loss) = 1425

1425 is the number of calories that I need to eat daily to lose weight while breastfeeding.  

Now that you have this amount, you can plan ahead. Download the app “fat secret" or “spark people." With these apps, you can calculate precisely how much you are eating daily to monitor your food intake. Now, you might be thinking that this is too much work, but after a few days you kinda remember the calories in foods, and it might not be necessary to use it every day. I use mine every day though, just because I like to be in control ;-)

What Foods to Eat

New research suggests that all breastfeeding mothers should stop avoiding specific food groups while pregnant or breastfeeding. The avoidance of certain foods can cause an allergy later on. The only time you need to avoid something is when your baby has tested positive (allergic) towards a food group. 

Weight loss tips

  • Water intake.

The first and most important aspect of breastfeeding and weight loss is hydration. If you do not drink enough water, you will not lose as much as possible. You might even notice an increase in milk supply when you drink enough water.

How much water to drink?

For every 10kg of body weight, you need to drink 1 cup of water (250ml) plus one extra. For example: If you weigh 80kg, you will need to drink 9 cups of water daily. That's 2,6L; this is especially important for lactating women, make sure you are hydrated!

  • Balanced Nutrition.

Secondly, you should aim for 40% carbs 30% fats and 30% protein daily. Fat secret shows you these amounts as you add them to the app. 

  • Enough Protein.

You should try to take in at least 1g of protein for every 1kg of body weight. For example: If you weigh 80kg you need to eat 80g of protein daily. The more, the better; this ensures that when you do lose weight, it's fat weight and not muscle mass lost.

  • Keep up blood sugar levels.

Try to divide your calories into 250cal meals. Your meals should not be more than 3 hours apart from each other; this is important and ensures that your blood sugar stays constant throughout the day.

  • Exercise

Yes, it is safe to exercise while breastfeeding. When I started my weight loss journey, I lost some muscle because I was exercising every day. As soon as I began to alternate days off in between, I started losing more fat. I would recommend (from my own experience) 30 minutes interval training every second day for the best results. During those 30 minutes, I run as fast as I can for 1 minute and then walk for one minute and so on.

  • Two meal replacements. 

Replace at least two of those meals with a smoothie. 

Ideas for smoothies:

My Meal Replacement Smoothie

  • 20 to 40g of protein powder 
  • 1 frozen fruit (I love to add strawberries, grapes, banana to my shakes)
  • 1 large date for those with a sweet tooth.
  • 1 tbsp of raw cacao nibs (for added antioxidants)
  • 1 cup of almond milk. (Make your own almond milk - 20 almonds in 3 cups water, blend in Nutribullet, strain with nut or cheesecloth) Store in fridge.
  • This shake is approximately 250 calories.

Good foods for weight loss

  • Salads
  • Chicken breasts
  • Eggs
  • Tuna in water
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • All vegetables (except for potato and sweet potato)
  • Chickpeas and beans
  • Lean biltong (dried meat)
  • Coconut oil for cooking, olive oil for salads
  • Nuts and seeds

Limit the following foods for weight loss

  • Rice and bread. 
  • Potato and sweet potato.
  • All processed foods.
  • Vegetable oils.
  • Sugar. 
  • Milk and cheddar cheese
  • Try to eat less red meat.
  • Coffee - Even though coffee while breastfeeding is okay in moderation, I left coffee cold turkey. Coffee is a diuretic and will dehydrate you, which will sabotage weight loss while breastfeeding. It is also full of chemicals. You do get excellent caffeine alternatives. What I drink instead of coffee: 2 cups boiling water with Earl Grey tea, the juice of one orange, a squirt of lemon juice and ½ tbsp of honey.

A Day in My Life

  • Wake up (drink water)
  • 30 minutes after waking - have a smoothie (drink water)
  • 3 hours later have a snack (250 cals) something like a tin of tuna with salad. (drink water)
  • 3 hours later have a smoothie (drink water)
  • 3 hours later have another snack. Something like 100g of biltong (drink water)
  • 3 hours later have my main meal, which is usually about 100g white meat and lots of vegetables.  (drink water)
  • If I have enough calories left over for the day, I’ll have another smoothie or an orange (drink water)
  • Jog 2.5 km every second or third day.
  • One of the reasons why I feel I have been successful during my weight loss journey is because I have a support system and somebody that keeps me accountable. 

Join us facebook breastfeeding page