Weight Loss While Breast-Feeding
Moderate Weight Loss OK for Overweight Moms Who Breast Feed
Overweight mothers who breast feed their infants may lose weight through a sensible diet and exercise program – without fear of harming their infants – a study by NICHD-funded researchers has found.
“Being overweight may cause serious health problems,” said NICHD Director Duane Alexander, M.D. “This study shows that it’s safe for overweight women to begin a sensible weight loss program without posing a risk to their infants.”
Dr. Lovelady explained that weight gained during pregnancy might contribute to obesity later in life. Losing this extra weight soon after pregnancy may help many women to avoid later obesity and its long-term health effects. An Institute of Medicine report earlier had concluded that overweight breast-feeding women could probably lose about 2 kg (4.4 pounds) per month without affecting their production of milk. However, Dr. Lovelady pointed out, no studies existed to prove whether this assumption was true.
Dr. Lovelady stressed that a woman who is breast feeding should first consult her physician and nutritionist before undertaking any weight loss program. She added that breast-feeding women should not attempt to lose weight if they are only a few pounds overweight.
“Breast-feeding mothers who are only 5 pounds overweight shouldn’t try to lose weight,” she said. Unless a woman has sufficient fat reserves, dieting may hinder milk production and also cause the woman to feel fatigued.
“In conclusion,” the authors wrote, “a program of moderate exercise and energy restriction was successful in inducing weight loss in overweight, lactating mothers without harming the growth of their infants in the early postpartum period.”
The study builds upon the findings of an earlier study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on February 17, 1994. This study found that breast-feeding mothers could not lose weight if they began an exercise program without also cutting the amount of calories they consumed.
“You’ve got to have the caloric restriction if you’re going to see weight loss,” Dr. Lovelady said