While it’s not a good idea to go on a strict diet and exercise regime and try to lose your post-pregnancy baby weight while breastfeeding, you can start to focus a little more on losing those last stubborn kilos once you’ve weaned your little one.
Why you shouldn’t aim to lose the baby weight while breastfeeding
It’s important to understand why your main focus shouldn’t be on weight loss when you’re breastfeeding. According to a recent report published in the New York Times, rapid weight loss could cause a drop in milk supply, increase fatigue and alter hormonal levels – the last thing you need as a new mom. It’s also important not to dip below 1 800 calories a day, because the body needs a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods to produce adequate milk for your growing baby’s needs.
Regardless of whether you’ve had a C-section or natural birth, your body will also need time to recover from the birth itself. “This is why you should avoid pushing your already tired and sleep deprived body too hard – whether it’s with an exercise regime or cutting back your calories drastically. Your body is still recovering and needs time to heal,” warns Desi.
To help you bounce back after birth, it’s essential that you take in a variety of vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet that’s not restrictive. Vitamin C has been found to assist with wound-healing, while a diet rich in iron and green leafy vegetables is believed to speed up recovery – especially if you lost a lot of blood during the birth itself.
While healthcare experts will most likely recommend a healthy diet and safe exercise regime before, during and after pregnancy, extreme diets (where you cut out entire food groups) or rigid exercise programmes are off limits.
How and when to lose your baby weight safely
“When it’s time to get a little more serious about getting your body back, you have to think about health first,” explains Desi. She shares some of her tried-and-tested tips to help you lose weight, while prioritising your health and overall wellbeing.
- Eat regularly throughout the day. This will help to keep your blood sugar steady and ensuring you don’t overeat later or struggle with cravings.
- Stick to whole foods with emphasis on vegetables and salads with every meal.
- Cut out all refined carbohydrates. Treats like cakes, muffins, scones, white bread and pasta are often high in sugar and unhealthy fat too. Although you may feel like they give you an instant energy boost, these foods cause sugar spikes and ultimately fat storage, so it’s best to cut them out altogether.
- Don’t be afraid of the healthy fats. These include avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, olive oil and coconut oil. If you have a lot of weight to lose, speak to a dietician who can help you manage your portions though, as these foods are energy-dense.
- You don’t have to cut out fruit to lose weight. While some fruits are high in sugar (such as grapes, bananas and dried fruits), there are a few fruits you can eat while trying to lose weight. The following fruits have a low glycaemic load, which means they won’t raise blood glucose levels too quickly. These are:
- All berrie, including strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries
While exercise is key to overall health and wellbeing, it’s important not to sacrifice sleep for it in the early days, says Desi. Having a baby means very erratic sleep patterns, which can slow down your metabolism and this will increase your cravings for sugar and stimulants. If you exercise too hard on top of this, you’ll simply be left feeling even hungrier and more tired. Keep the following tips in mind:
Start slowly and build up your strength and fitness levels. No matter how fit you were before or during pregnancy, having a baby changes your body and you might be left with a post-baby bloated tummy or pooch, which could be abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti. If you suspect you might have this, see your GP who can refer you to a specialist who will recommend specific rehabilitation exercises to help you heal your tummy muscles.
Try a combination of strength training (with weights and your own body weight) as well as cardio activities such as swimming, walking, light jogging or rebounding. This will help to speed up your metabolism and burn fat. As you get fitter and stronger, you can slowly introduce shorter bursts of high-intensity interval training. For example, you could push yourself hard for 20 seconds, and repeat three times.
Desi recommends these natural supplements to help you lose the baby weight safely, yet effectively:
- Gymnema Sylvestre. This is an Ayurvedic herb that assists with sugar cravings and helps to balance blood sugar.
- Green tea. Just one or two cups a day will help to boost your metabolism.
- Adaptogenic herbs like macca, rhodiola and ashwagandha can be used to keep stress hormones such as cortisol in check to prevent weight gain around the middle.
“All these natural supplements will keep your body balanced, which will assist in your weight loss efforts,” says Desi. She says all moms should be wary of potent weight loss formulas that may help in the short term, but have a negative impact on your metabolism over a long period.
TOP TIP: Once you’ve weaned your baby off the breast, book a check-up with your gynae and have your hormones tested. If your hormones aren’t balanced, your body can be resistant to weight loss.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.