How many calories does breastfeeding burn a day? What about pumping? Can I cut calories and lose weight? How many calories does breastfeeding burn a day? What about pumping? Can I cut calories and lose weight? New moms always have questions about calories when they are starting to breastfeed their babies. You are not alone.
Calories, Breastfeeding and Your Postpartum Body
You’re thrilled to hold your new baby in your arms but not so thrilled about the way your clothes fit your new mommy body. As a new mother, you have some weight loss obstacles to overcome. For starters, your new baby is time consuming, especially if you’re exclusively breastfeeding on demand. You have less time to cook healthy meals, and just getting to the grocery store may present a challenge. Some days you may find it difficult just to get a nap and a shower.
The good news is that you can lose weight healthfully while breastfeeding. Severe dietary restrictions aren’t safe, and diets will only earn you short-term results. Keep reading to learn new strategies for health as a breastfeeding mom.
How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Most professionals estimate that the calories burned by an exclusively breastfeeding woman are approximately 670 Calories per day (Dewey, 1997) . If gradual weight loss is desired, adding an additional 500 calories per day is recommended to a woman’s normal calorie requirements when not breastfeeding.
The La Leche League estimates up to a 700 calorie burn each day from breastfeeding. They also note that breastfeeding mothers tend to lose more weight postpartum than mothers who don’t breastfeed.
Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding? The Truth About Postpartum Weight Loss
Before you get excited about burning that extra 500 calories a day just for breastfeeding your baby, take a moment to put things in perspective. The La Leche League also estimates that breastfeeding mothers will lose an average of one to two pounds per month. If you were hoping for a much faster bounce back to your pre-baby weight, you’re not alone.
Breastfeeding is just one small piece of the weight loss puzzle. It does give you a little boost in the calorie burning department, but there are still many other factors that will determine how much weight you lose or gain after having a baby. Those factors include the amount of breast milk you’re creating, your activity level and your age. If you’re pumping between or after breastfeeding sessions, that can impact your overall calorie burn as well.
You also have to consider hormone fluctuations and the natural rhythm of your metabolism. Some women naturally burn calories at a higher rate while others must carefully watch what they eat and exercise daily to see results. You may even find that your metabolism and other bodily functions change after having a baby.
When it comes to calories, weight loss and breastfeeding, there’s a lot more to know than how many calories are burned from breastfeeding. Let’s keep exploring to see how you can embrace health while feeding your baby from the breast.
Related Article: Dieting While Breastfeeding: Tips for Losing Weight Without Weaning
How Many Calories Does Pumping Burn?
The act of pumping out breast milk probably doesn’t burn many calories, but there is an indirect benefit for your waistline. Pumping along with regular breastfeeding can stimulate a more substantial milk supply. Your body will burn more calories creating that higher volume of milk.
Producing more milk than your baby can consume may help you create a freezer stash for later use, especially if you intend on returning to work and bottle feeding part-time. Just make sure you aren’t boosting your supply for the pure benefit of burning calories. Overstimulating the breasts to create too much milk could leave you vulnerable to clogged ducts and other breastfeeding issues that come with an oversupply of milk.
Breastfeeding Burns Calories… Why Am I Not Losing Weight?
This goes back to all of those factors beyond breastfeeding that determine your weight loss or gain after having a baby. For many women, the lack of weight loss or even a weight gain comes down to the ratio of calories consumed to calories burned. If you see the calories burned by breastfeeding as permission to eat without restraint, then you can easily turn the benefit of those calories into a liability.
As a sleep-deprived new mother with little free time, your activity level may be at an all-time low in the first three to six months of postpartum. You may not have the time to prepare the healthy meals that you know your body needs, so you may snack a bit more on convenience foods that aren’t the best for weight loss.
All of these factors play a part in the number you see on the scale. In fact, research has proven that getting less sleep predisposes a woman to gain weight. It also increases appetite and food cravings. You know that breastfeeding a new baby comes with sleep deprivation, so cut yourself some slack. Breastfeeding isn’t a magical solution to postpartum weight issues, but it can help you out a little bit.
Calorie Restriction – Is It Safe? How Many Calories Do You Really Need?
The CDC recommends that breastfeeding mothers consume an extra 450-500 calories per day to make up for what they burn in the milk production and feeding process. That strategy may work if you were at a healthy body weight prior to pregnancy and didn’t gain a substantial amount of weight during your pregnancy.
If you’re like most women and need to lose a bit of weight to get back into your everyday wardrobe, you’re likely contemplating calorie restriction instead. Research has shown that moderate weight loss achieved through slight calorie restriction and reasonable amounts of exercise has no impact on milk production or breastfeeding efforts. In fact, burning some calories through exercise can help by shaping and toning your body in addition to weight loss.
The exact number of calories that you need to consume in order to remain healthy and strong for your baby depends on a long list of factors. Those factors include your current BMI, age and activity level. In general terms, you should stay above 1,500 calories per day. Most women need 1,800 or even 2,000 to sustain breastfeeding and daily activity comfortably and healthfully.
You can use a calorie calculator to get a general idea of how many calories you should consume each day. Just keep in mind that most calculators aren’t concerned about your ability to produce breast milk or the energy that you need to breastfeed exclusively. A substantial restriction in caloric intake could have an impact on your breastfeeding abilities, so always proceed with caution.
Are All Calories Equal?
While you may lose weight by simply counting calories and eating whatever you want, there are reasons to consider the quality of every calorie you consume. The best foods for healthy milk production are rich in vitamins and nutrients that your baby needs to thrive. Think beyond the macronutrients of protein, fat and carbohydrates to consider minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains will deliver all the nutritional value that you want to pack into your breast milk. Healthier food options will also help boost your energy levels so that you can keep up with your baby’s insatiable desire to eat, cuddle and play.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a treat here and there. A healthy diet should allow you to enjoy your favorite foods at least occasionally. You may also find that you start to crave healthier foods the more you include them in your daily diet.
No one is perfect in the diet category, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just focus on nutrient-rich foods the majority of the time and see what it does for your weight loss efforts and the growth of your new baby.
Should You Make Time for Exercise?
The answer to this is an absolute yes. You don’t want to put too much stress on yourself, especially if you didn’t exercise regularly prior to your pregnancy. Start out slow and make time for exercise in your daily lifestyle. You want it to become something that you naturally do every day to stay healthy in general.
Exercise can help with more than weight loss. It can boost your mood and help you overcome or avoid postpartum depression. It may also give you some alone time and a sense of independence while you spend so much time attached to your new baby. If you include your baby in your workouts, it may even give you more opportunities to bond emotionally while role modeling a healthy lifestyle for the little one.
Reasonable amounts of cardiovascular and strength-building exercise will increase the number of calories that you burn each day without impacting your ability to create breast milk. The problems arise when you take exercise or calorie restriction to the extreme. Keep it moderate, and you should see improvements in your body and mood while watching your baby thrive.
A Note on Special Circumstances
There are some circumstances that may require a departure from the norm in terms of calories burned or consumed. If you or your baby suffer from a medical condition that requires special dietary restrictions or guidelines, always listen to what your doctor recommends over anything that you read online or in a book. No one knows your unique needs like your doctor or your baby’s pediatrician.
- Good Breastfeeding Nutrition Including 30 Foods That Increase Milk Supply
- Dieting While Breastfeeding: Tips for Losing Weight Without Weaning
- The Best Breastfeeding Diet Options for Losing Weight without Losing Milk