Post Partum Weight Management

Post Partum Mamas Are Eager to Lose “Baby Weight”

I’ve been working with women for over 10 years and exclusively with perinatal women for the past 7 years. When it comes to weight management during pregnancy and weight loss thereafter there is admittedly a lot of information available. I always advise my clients to attempt nutrition and weight management in “chewable nuggets” (yes, the pun is intended!). Choosing to eat healthily and to engage in an active lifestyle will serve them well not only as they try to manage their weight during pregnancy, but also as they try to regain their figures post partum.

It’s been my experience that post partum mamas are a bit more challenging to work with than expectant mamas. While expectant mamas are comfortable, even overjoyed with their pregnant bellies, post partum mamas are far less happy to see the softer, less toned post partum tummies. A common mistake that I see with post partum women is starting an aggressive exercise and weight loss program too early in the post partum period. I always advise new moms to ease back into exercise (never before 6 weeks) and to keep in mind, “Nine months on, nine months off!” Many new moms don’t want to even think that they’ll be carrying pregnancy weight 9 months post partum, but slow, steady weight loss over about 9 months is the safest way for a post partum woman to lose weight and keep it off without compromising her health or breast milk supply.

A Post Partum Mama’s Caloric Needs

The American Dietetic Association states that a breastfeeding mama only needs an additional 300-500 calories over her pre-pregnancy daily caloric intake to have adequate milk supply for their newborns.  In other words, a breastfeeding mother only needs about 200 more calories a day over her pregnancy caloric intake (the additional 300 calories) to nurse successfully!

Drink, But No Need to Force,  Fluids

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education* explains, “Lactating women need adequate fluid intake, but pushing fluids is not necessary.” The article goes even further stating, “Individuals generally need 1–1.5 ml of water for each calorie consumed (e.g., a person eating a 2000-calorie diet would need 2000–3000 ml-2 to 3 liters-of fluid each day)”. So if breastfeeding women increase their caloric intake by approximately 500 calories over their pre-pregnancy caloric intake, they would need to drink an additional 500ml or half a liter (a small bottle of water) more fluid daily.

Post partum moms who are eager to lose their pregnancy weight should adhere to the same nutrition guidelines outlined above for prenatal moms. Because a breastfeeding mama will expend about 800 calories daily in milk production, if she maintains a healthy, moderate calorie diet, she will often lose weight effortlessly.  Not Every Woman Loses Weight while breast feeding! Some women even gain weight. But a woman who follows a healthy nutritious diet and engages in moderate intensity exercise 3-5 days a week with strength training will lose weight and will typically regain her pre-pregnancy weight within 6-12 months.

*”Nutrition Column An Update on Water Needs during Pregnancy and Beyond”

by Kristen S. Montgomery, PhD, RN. Journal of Perinatal Education. 2002 Summer; 11(3): 40–42.