Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Many new mothers are concerned about losing weight after the baby is born. Breastfeeding is already a great way to lose remaining baby weight, as some of the body's postpartum fat stores are there specifically to be used in the production of breast milk (those who choose not to breastfeed have to lose that stored fat on their own!) But some mothers are more eager to get rid of that leftover pregnancy tummy faster. So is it ok to diet while breastfeeding?
According to LLLI's The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd edition, pages 446-448, women after the first two months, when milk supply is generally established, can safely lose weight in a gradual way. About a pound a week has not been shown to affect milk production or the growth of the baby. Exercise can also be added – one study indicated 45 minute workouts 4 times a week did increase weight loss with no affect to milk supply or baby weight.
But managing weight loss carefully can be tricky and mothers often want help. As part of my Lactation Educator coursework, I was expected to research the appropriateness of two common commercial diet plans, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, for breastfeeding mothers. I was surprised to find out that both programs tailor services specifically for nursing moms. Here's what learned:
Weight Watchers states that their program is designed to produce the recommended weight loss of one pound a week for nursing mothers. They recommend an additional 500 calories a day above their normal recommendation, additional protein and a multi-vitamin supplement. They ask for physician approval to begin and mention waiting at least 6-8 weeks to ensure healthy milk supply establishment. They recommend exercise in consultation with a health care provider.
Jenny Craig offers consultation with a counselor for their lactating clients to establish an individualized plan (I could not find information online at the main Jenny Craig site, but found several chats of Jenny Craig participants discussing their plans). They appear to have a baseline 2300 calorie plan to start which can then be modified according to individual results and needs working with the counselor. Some women really need and lose the appropriate weight which is discussed as ½-1 pound a week. Some women were able to handle less and still have supply and baby growth come along fine.
Jenny Craig appears to be quite cautious with BF moms and committed to protecting milk supply while supporting gradual weight loss. **However,** in exploring the Jenny Craig website, I discovered they were bought in 2006 by Nestle, which in their artificial baby milk division is in conflict with many breastfeeding professionals and advocates due to their questionable marketing practices in developing nations (for more information on this, see my article, "Breastfeeding and the Nestle Boycott" in related links below).
Because of this relationship, I would suggest that nursing mothers desiring diet assistance support other breastfeeding women worldwide by checking out Weight Watchers first to see if that program feels like a match before considering a Nestle-owned company. In any case, after establishing breastfeeding, mothers wishing to manage their weight loss can confidently research these two common plans.
Are you more the DIY type? This book might help: