When my two children were babies, I knew that breastfeeding would be the best way to nourish them. I was determined to do what I could in order to offer what I felt was the best possible way to get them on track for a healthy start. What I didn’t realize at the time were the many other health benefits a mother could gain while breastfeeding. I especially did not anticipate breastfeeding to loose inches.
What happens to our bodies as we prepare for the nursing phase of motherhood? One big change is the accumulation of fat, which is a contributing factor in the nourishment of the rapidly growing fetus. It is also what the body will draw from for the production of milk to feed the baby after birth. Realizing that this fat is not necessarily equal to other bodyfat accumulation should help us realize just how important it is to get back on track once the baby has been born (Or even better, try to keep weight gain healthy while carrying the baby). What’s great is that when we are lactating, the ability to mobilize this fat seems to be much better than when we choose not to breastfeed. Could this be an essential key towards the apparent ease of weight loss during the nursing phase of motherhood?
Some possible contributing factors as related to maternal weight and breastfeeding:
- Production of oxytocin: For many mothers this hormone induces extreme relaxation. This essentially leads to lower blood pressure and quite possibly, a reduced need for food for comfort. Oxytocin is also the hormone that encourages the shrinking of the uterus.
- Calories needed to produce milk: Your body needs calories to carry on with everyday bodily functions as it also needs calories to produce milk. It is advised to get an additional 300-500 extra calories everyday while nursing through densely nutritious foods.
- More sleep is induced: When nursing, relaxation is encouraged by lactation experts and is naturally induced with the release of oxytocin. Also, without a bottle to prep, you can get back to sleep quicker once your night nursing is done.
Making a connection:
- Oxytocin is a hormone that reduces stress and sends you into a more relaxed, less stressed state of mind. When we are feeling stressed our levels of cortisol rise and with continual stress triggers, that cortisol continues to stay elevated, leading to hormonal imbalances and an inability to lose inches. So with more oxytocin circulating, as during lactation, high cortisol levels appear to not have a fighting chance. Some say oxytocin could be a weight loss hormone, even during a time when there is an increased need for calories.
- The calories needed for the production of milk may end up causing some women to feel that they can eat an extra meal or binge on foods that consist of empty calories. So, if care is taken to consume foods such as Greek yogurt, fruits, vegetables and nuts, then weight will naturally lower through these clean eating habits.
- Getting more sleep, if you are like me, is the last bit of advice I want to hear. I get it: I need more sleep. But when we are talking about post pregnancy and striving for that pre-baby physique, as well as staying healthy for the baby, sleep it is rather crucial. You are in luck when it comes to nursing since, as mentioned above, it naturally allows for more rest!
What’s the bottom line on breastfeeding to lose inches? Research aside, and on personal note, I contribute my maternal weight loss to better food choices during all prenatal phases as well as while nursing, offering breastmilk for the first year, exercising once given a medical release and drinking a lot of water. So whether or not it will work for you is a personal situation in and of itself. Research for yourself online and amongst your closest friends. Personally, there are too many stories that I have heard and read about, to put this idea aside. As a mother, fitness expert and dietitian, I feel that breastfeeding can assist you on your quest to lose inches and it should be yet, another bullet to add to the list of positive reasons to breastfeed your baby.