Weight-Loss Recommendations for New Moms
Many new moms are eager to shed excess pounds soon after their babies are born, but there are important weight-loss guidelines these mothers should follow.
Having a baby is an extraordinary time in a woman's life. After the baby is born, however, comes the challenge of losing weight. Losing the baby weight is important because not doing so increases the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese later in life.1 For those who are breastfeeding, there are specific weight-loss guidelines to ensure good health and adequate milk production.
When to Start
Before beginning a weight-loss program, it is important to get physician approval. It is generally recommended that breastfeeding women wait for 6-8 weeks before attempting active weight loss, as the body needs time to recover from childbirth and establish a good milk supply.
Recommendations for Weight Loss
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) a weight loss of 1 pound a week while breastfeeding is safe and does not negatively affect infant growth.2,3 A weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is recommended for new moms who are not nursing.
It is especially important when breastfeeding to make wise food choices and eat a wide variety of healthy foods to ensure adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in breast milk. Additionally, most physicians recommend taking a prenatal vitamin while nursing and the American Medical Association recommends taking a multivitamin when following a weight-loss program.
All breastfeeding women need an extra 500 calories per day to make enough breast milk in order to provide an adequate milk supply.4 Protein needs are also increased from 46 to 71 grams (the equivalent to 3 servings of protein-rich foods) a day when breastfeeding to help preserve the lean body mass needed to help maintain a good milk supply.5
Recommendations for Physical Activity
Similar to starting any weight-loss program, physician approval should be sought before beginning regular physical activity. Research has found that both high and moderate-intensity activity does not affect a mother's ability to breastfeed2 and can help with losing weight and maintaining weight loss.3
This content is reviewed regularly. Last updated December 17, 2011.
The Weight Watchers Approach
The Weight Watchers food plan provides specific adaptations for nursing mothers and are designed to produce the recommended rate of weight loss of 1 pound a week.
Other Science Library topics:
Achieving a Sustainable Weight Loss
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2 ACOG committee opinion. Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Number 267, January 2002. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2002 Apr;77(1):79-81.
3 Lovelady C, Garner K, Moreno K, and Williams J. The effect of weight loss in overweight, lactating women on the growth of their infants. N Engl J Med 2000; 342;449-53.
4 Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2005.
5 Motil KJ, Sheng HP, Kertz BL, Montandon CM, Ellis KJ. Lean body mass of well-nourished women is preserved during lactation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Feb;67(2):292-300.
6 Larson-Meyer DE. Effect of postpartum exercise on mothers and their offspring: a review of the literature. Obes Res 10(8):841-53, 2002.
7 Rooney BL, Schauberger CW. Excess pregnancy weight gain and long-term obesity: one decade later. Obstet Gynecol. 2002 Aug; 100(2):245-52.