Breastfeeding, Exercise and Weight Loss

By Alissa Carpio

The research is out, and breastfeeding is the healthiest and best solution for both mother and child. Breastfeeding is recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The many benefits of breastfeeding are beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few of the most important ones:

• Decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and Post-Partum Depression (PPD) in mothers who breastfeed
• Decreased risk of allergies, asthma, obesity, immune diseases, SIDS, and Type 1 and 2 diabetes in breastfed babies
• Breast milk contains 300 ingredients; infant formula contains about 40
• Breastfeeding is inexpensive and convenient. Formula costs between $1,160 and $3,915 per year.
• Breastfeeding is eco-friendly – no waste is produced!
• Breastfeeding strengthens the bond between baby and mother.

Weight Loss

Immediately after giving birth, the act of breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones which help the uterus contract back to pre-pregnancy size much more quickly than if the mother does not breastfeed.

Research has shown that high estrogen levels can cause weight gain due to sodium and water retention. While some studies show that estrogen may cause weight gain as well, research is not conclusive in this area. Breastfeeding suppresses estrogen levels, and can aid in weight loss.

It’s estimated that your body burns 20 calories for every ounce of breast milk produced. Depending on your baby’s feeding demand, that’s anywhere from 400 to 800 calories a day! Try burning that without a super-tough gym workout. There’s no other way to do it!

Women naturally store more fat on their hips and thighs due to high lipoprotein lipase activity and low lipolytic activity (fat breakdown) in that area. The only time in a woman’s life when lipolytic activity is high and lipoprotein lipase activity is low – the reverse – is during the third trimester of pregnancy and during lactation. Therefore, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the longer she can reap the benefits of increased fat burning from her hips and thighs! Breastfeeding truly is an all-natural fat-burner!


It is possible to breastfeed and still get back to your old fitness junkie self! A major concern is to ensure your milk supply stays adequate. It’s important to stay hydrated and consume extra calories throughout lactation. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to consume enough clean, nutrient-dense calories to fuel your baby, too. Aim for a safe weight loss of 1 – 2 lbs. per week. Pay attention to your baby’s feeding schedule and hunger cues, as well as weight gain, to make sure he’s getting all the food he needs.

Some sources say that the buildup of lactic acid from increased exercise can cause babies to refuse their mother’s milk. If you notice this with your baby, ease back on the frequency and intensity of your training for a while until baby gets used to the changing taste of your milk.

Keeping your breasts comfortable while working out is another major concern. Find a well-fitting sports bra to ensure your bigger additions are comfortable and aren’t adding strain to your back and neck muscles. Motherhood Maternity makes an affordable, well-fitting bra for around $20.

Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 4th Ed., Wilmore, Costill and Kennedy
Weight Gain, Fluid Retention, and The Pill, Women’s Health Resource, Jelovsek, MD, MS
Benefits of Breastfeeding,
What’s in Breastmilk? American Pregnancy Association,
How to Exercise While Breast-Feeding,
New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding, American Academy of Pediatrics, Meek, MD, MS and Tippins

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