Breastfeeding burns extra calories, but you could still gain weight if you’re not mindful. By Estelle Low
The more milk you produce, the more calories you burn. Photo: Wong Sze Yuen / www.123rf.com
Before I became a mum, I’d heard these statements umpteen times: Breastfeeding helps you to lose weight; breastfeeding helps you regain your pre-pregnancy figure faster; breastfeeding is the best way to get back into shape after having a kid.
Mums around me swore by breastfeeding – not just for the health benefits it gives to baby, but also for its slimming effect.
Right after I had my baby, it seemed like the most important thing I needed to do to get my pre-baby body back was to breastfeed. I didn’t just breastfeed round the clock, but also pumped milk every few hours to keep up supply – all the while telling myself that besides building milk stores for baby, I’d be able to lose weight faster.
How many calories does breastfeeding burn?
The more milk you produce, the more calories you burn. One ounce (30ml) of breast milk is worth about 20 calories, so if you churn out 30 ounces of milk a day, you’ll burn an extra 600 calories. Food wise, that’s roughly equivalent to a plate of roasted chicken rice (607 kcal), a plate of mee rebus (571 kcal), or a vegetable murtabak (620 kcal). In fitness terms, the daily calorie burn from breastfeeding is equivalent to jogging for 45 minutes. Not bad as a weight loss tool!
The downside: Breastfeeding makes you hungry.
I’m not talking about the 4pm peckish feeling, but the “I’m sooo ravenous I could eat a cow!” kind. It’s a real intense hunger that makes you want to gobble anything within reach. Those hunger pangs typically strike in between meals, and in the middle of the night. (At least, that’s the case for me.) When that happens, you might be tempted to eat whatever you want, without regard for portion size. Big mistake. You might end up consuming more calories than you’ve burned, and gain weight from breastfeeding instead.
When breastfeeding, increase your food intake wisely.
To maintain your milk supply, you will need to eat nutritiously, and consume sufficient calories for your body to produce milk. Make your regular meals more filling by adding more lean protein, fibre and good carbs like quinoa and brown rice. But you also want to avoid overcompensating the calories burned from breastfeeding. So refrain from mindless snacking. If you need to munch in between meals, opt for healthy options like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts and plain yogurt.
So, can breastfeeding help you lose all the pregnancy weight?
I managed to shed my extra kilos in two months. Breastfeeding surely played a part, but I’m not about to give it all the credit. Besides breastfeeding, I filled my diet with nourishing and satisfying food (more lean meat, veggies and whole grains), drank lots of water and unsweetened beverages (no soft drinks), and made sure I had sufficient sleep. I also involuntarily worked up a sweat from doing baby chores every day: Changing diapers, carrying and rocking baby, bathing baby… the little activities add up!