“How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?”
It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked by new moms who are looking to get their body back after baby.
Most moms know that breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients needed for the first few months of our baby’s lives.
Most moms even know that breast milk contains disease-fighting substances designed to protect our little one from obesity, diabetes, and asthma, among other illnesses.
It doesn’t surprise new moms when they hear that breast milk is proven to help protect their baby from developing allergies and helps to reduce the risk of infection.
Did you know that because of antibodies in mom’s milk, breast-fed babies have 50 to 95 percent fewer infections than other babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics?! Pretty cool, isn’t it?!
Most moms know how breastfeeding affects their babies.
What they don’t know is how breastfeeding affects THEM!
Most experts look at breastfeeding from a purely caloric point of view, stating that new moms are losing energy from milk production and thus are burning calories that should make losing the baby weight easier for breastfeeding mothers.
But this is not the whole story!!
When looking at how breastfeeding affects new moms and our ability to get our bodies back, there are two factors that we need to consider:
- Breastfeeding from a caloric perspective
- Breastfeeding from a hormonal perspective
Yes, breastfeeding does burn calories. Studies show that our bodies burn approximately 20 calories per ounce of breast milk that we produce. If your baby eats 19-30 ounces a day, that’s anywhere between 380-600 calories burned.
So from the caloric perspective, you will use more energy if you are a breastfeeding mom.
But why is it sill so hard to lose the baby weight?
The answer is simple: From a hormonal perspective, breastfeeding slows fat loss.
As breastfeeding moms, we will naturally have lower estrogen and testosterone and higher prolactin levels than moms who are not breastfeeding.
This hormonal situation reduces the breastfeeding mother’s ability to burn fat.
Why? Because both estrogen and testosterone (hormones breastfeeding moms have lower levels of) are fat burning in their action, and prolactin (the hormone responsible for producing breast milk) is fat storing.
And what makes matters worse, is the fact that the common diet of many new moms also causes a hormonal fat storing environment!
Most moms are eating higher carb diets and diets that are high in dairy, both of which promote a higher insulin response and contain levels of progesterone, estrogen, prolactin and other hormones that aid in our inability to lose fat.
The Problem: This internal production of hormones, in combination with the standard American diet leaves many new moms with an inability to lose the baby weight, despite the extra calories that are burned from breastfeeding.
The Solution: Breastfeeding as long as desired.
It’s healthy for both you AND your baby! But if you want to lose the baby weight, don’t rely on the calories burned from breastfeeding alone.
Make sure that you also address the hormonal aspect as well.
Generally, I recommend most moms move to a lower carb and lower dairy diet while breastfeeding and working to lose their baby weight. I’ve found it incredibly beneficial to increase vegetables and protein sources and to eat a higher fat diet as well.
These nutrition changes, in combination with the right types of exercise, are imperative to help new moms remain insulin sensitive and able to burn fat efficiently.
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