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.
Weight-Loss Recommendations for New Moms

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
Ideally, a pregnant woman should follow the Institute of Medicine weight gain recommendations,1 as excessive weight gain during pregnancy often means more weight to lose after giving birth.2
Before beginning a weight-loss program, it is important to get physician approval. It is generally recommended that breastfeeding women wait for six to eight 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 one pound per week while breastfeeding is safe,3 and does not negatively affect infant growth.4 Furthermore, breastfeeding can help accelerate postpartum weight loss.5
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.6 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.

Recommendations for Physical Activity
Not only is physical activity recommended postpartum, but physical activity has been shown to benefit weight loss.7
Similar to starting any weight-loss program, physician approval should be sought before beginning regular physical activity. Research has found that moderate-intensity activity does not affect a mother's ability to breastfeed and can help with losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

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.

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Other Science Library topics:

Achieving a Sustainable Weight Loss

Healthy Nutrition


1 Institute of Medicine, Report Brief May 2009, Weight Gain during Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guideline.

2 Siega-Riz AM, Viswanathan M, Moos MK, et al. A systematic review of outcomes of maternal weight gain according to the Institute of Medicine recommendations: birthweight, fetal growth, and postpartum weight retention. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Oct;201(4):339.e1-14.

3 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.

4 Lovelady C. Balancing exercise and food intake with lactation to promote post-partum weight loss. Proc Nutr Soc. 2011 May;70(2):181-4.

5 Baker JL, Gamborg M, Heitmann BL, et al. Breastfeeding reduces postpartum weight retention. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Dec;88(6):1543-51.

6 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.

7 Østbye T, Peterson BL, Krause KM, et al. Predictors of postpartum weight change among overweight and obese women: results from the Active Mothers Postpartum study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Feb;21(2):215-22.

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