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Does Breastfeeding Make You Gain Weight

by Lyndon Langley
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Does Breastfeeding Make You Gain Weight

Does Breastfeeding Make You Gain Weight

The average nursing mother gains about 25 pounds during her pregnancy but loses most of that back when her child is weaned. The question for many moms isn’t whether breastfeeding makes you lose weight; it’s how long it will take. Some women expect to shed the extra pounds immediately while others have been told by well-meaning friends or relatives that they’ll be fat forever. But does breast feeding make you gain weight? Does it cause permanent weight gain? And if so, how can you speed up the process?

It depends on your body type and lifestyle. If you’re a woman who eats primarily carbohydrates — such as pasta, breads, rice and cereal — then yes, breastfeeding may make you gain weight because you consume an excess of sugar from milk. This happens because breastfeeding causes the pancreas to produce insulin, which breaks down blood sugar into glycogen (a carbohydrate). When this occurs, the body stores the sugar in the liver and muscles where it becomes glucose, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. While some people are susceptible to this phenomenon, researchers believe that most breastfeeding mothers won’t experience any problems with weight gain [sources: WebMD].
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, however, you should consider yourself at higher risk. A study published in 2008 found that 12 percent of vegetarians gained more weight than nonvegetarians after giving birth. Vegetarian women also tend to be thin people, already accustomed to eating fewer calories than their omnivorous counterparts. So what do these findings mean for vegans who nurse? Experts say it doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t give birth, just that they need to watch what they eat postpartum. In other words, if you want to maintain your slender figure, eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy products.

Now let’s look at another scenario: A new mom who nurses her infant exclusively for six months decides to start a regular exercise routine. She works out three times per week, consumes 2,000 calories a day, and drinks lots of water. Will she be able to lose weight? It probably won’t happen overnight, but there are ways to help boost metabolism and burn off unwanted pounds faster.

Lose Weight With Exercise
Eat Healthy Foods
Don’t Skip Meals
Know Your Metabolic Type

6: Lose Weight With Exercise
Exercising daily helps reduce stress hormones and increase those that promote fat burning. As a result, calorie consumption decreases, metabolic rate increases and overall appetite diminishes. For this reason, exercising might actually make it easier for breastfeeding women to lose weight. After all, it’s common knowledge that you can’t lose weight without reducing caloric intake, right?
While it may seem counterintuitive, moderate exercise is beneficial for both mother and child. Studies show that babies who are exercised regularly weigh less at birth than those who aren’t. Plus, studies have shown that infants respond best to aerobic exercises rather than resistance training. Aerobic activity includes walking, biking, swimming or dancing. Resistance activities include yoga, Pilates and strength training.

In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise has other benefits for pregnant and nursing women. Research indicates that it reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, lowers pre-pregnancy BMI and improves bone density.

5: Eat Healthy Foods
As mentioned earlier, breastfeeding may lead to weight gain in certain individuals. However, the majority of nursing women who gain weight do so because they consume too much food. Eating a balanced diet filled with fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy products is key to maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid high-calorie snacks and sweets that contain refined sugars, including white flour, white rice, white potatoes and sugary cereals. Remember that even though you’re nursing, you still need to feed yourself. Don’t skip meals and plan them every few hours throughout the day. Snack on fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt and cheese instead of chips, cookies and candy bars.

4: Don’t Skip Meals
Eating smaller, more frequent meals is recommended by many dietitians. Skipping meals puts pregnant and nursing women at greater risk for developing gestational diabetes, which affects 5 million Americans annually. Although skipping meals might save money in the short term, it could end up costing you big bucks in the long run. Not only do you miss out on nutrients, but hunger pangs set in later, making snacking a temptation. Also, skipping meals disrupts your digestive system, leading to constipation and bloating.

3: Know Your Metabolic Type
Metabolism is defined as the total number of calories your body burns each day, based on age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity. There are three types of metabolism: slow, medium and fast. Women fall into either the slow or fast category depending on how their thyroid functions. Thyroid hormones control metabolism, so if yours is underactive, your body converts more energy into heat and fat storage. Conversely, if your thyroid is overactive, your body uses more muscle mass to metabolize fuel.

So how does knowing your metabolic type affect your ability to lose weight after giving birth? Well, if you belong to the fast group, your metabolism slows down significantly after childbirth. In fact, the changes associated with hormonal fluctuations are enough to throw off your entire nutritional program. To combat this, speak to your doctor before getting started. He or she can prescribe a course of action designed specifically for you.

2: Balance Workouts With Rest
Pregnancy and nursing require rest and relaxation. Staying calm and relaxed throughout the day allows your mind and body to concentrate on healing. Excessive amounts of stress hinder wound repair and recovery, and nursing moms especially benefit from quality sleep.
Most medical professionals agree that pregnant and nursing women should get eight hours of sleep daily. During this period, your body undergoes profound changes that demand increased energy expenditure. Sleep deprivation leads to fatigue, moodiness and irritability, which can wreak havoc on your concentration and productivity.

1: Consider Supplementing Lactation Products
Many nutritionists recommend supplementing formula with vitamins and minerals to ensure proper nutrient intake. These supplements can be purchased online or through health food stores. Vitamins A, D, E and K play critical roles in promoting healthy skin, bones, teeth and immune function. Calcium promotes strong bones and nerves, while folic acid prevents spina bifuda, a condition that results in serious brain and spinal cord malformations. Iron provides essential oxygen to cells and helps regulate heartbeat and organ function. Zinc keeps the reproductive organs healthy, and vitamin B12 enhances fertility.

To maximize absorption, combine calcium, iron and zinc pills with liquid multivitamin drops. Other options include herbal remedies, such as evening primrose oil and black cohosh.

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