After having a baby, it is important for your health that you return to a normal weight, especially if you are overweight and wish to have more children. However, this shouldn’t happen too quickly. Immediately after childbirth, you lose weight rapidly, mainly due to fluid loss. After the initial rapid weight loss period, weight loss of about 0.5 kg/week is a reasonable rate.

Why shouldn’t you lose weight faster?

One of the reasons is that losing weight too quickly can lead to an increased amount of environmental toxins being excreted in your breast milk. Dioxins, PCBs, DDT and flame retardants are environmental toxins that accumulate in fatty tissues. Given that breast milk is high in fat, these toxins are excreted in your breast milk. If you lose a lot of weight rapidly, these toxins are released from the fatty tissue. However, the rapid weight loss immediately after childbirth does NOT affect the amount of environmental toxins in breast milk because it is mainly fluid loss, and not fat loss. Normal weight loss during breastfeeding does not lead to increased levels of environmental toxins in breast milk, but fasting and active dieting should be avoided.

How much should you eat?

Your energy intake is one of the factors that will affect how much weight you lose while you are breastfeeding. In theory, your energy expenditure increases by about 500 kilocalories per day while you are breastfeeding. However, it seems that the body adapts and compensates for this by lowering the basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy we expend each day just by living) and by reducing spontaneous physical activity.

As it can be tricky to find out how much your own particular energy expenditure is affected by breastfeeding, the best way forward is to try things out and see what happens. Start by calculating your ‘usual’ energy requirements, and then adding another 500 kilocalories. Weigh and measure yourself regularly and adjust as you go, depending on how quickly or slowly you are losing weight. Are you losing more than 0.5 kg per week? Try to eat a bit more. Aren’t you losing any weight at all? Try lowering your energy intake slightly by reducing or eliminating unnecessary kcal from e.g. biscuits, sweets, soft drinks and fast food, and/or reducing portion sizes.

Breastfeeding not only increases your energy requirements – it also increases your requirements for most vitamins and minerals by 30%, with vitamin A and zinc increasing by as much as 50%. This means that simply getting enough kilocalories is not enough; you also need to make sure you eat nutrient-dense foods that meet your vitamin and mineral requirements. To do this, you should aim to satisfy your energy requirements with pulses, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, chicken, lean meat and fish. Try to have breakfast, lunch, dinner and two to three snacks per day.

Becoming a parent changes your life completely – all your routines are turned upside down and it’s not always possible to prioritise your own needs when you’ve just had a baby. However, in order to recover from childbirth and get through breastfeeding and the sleepless nights, it is important to give yourself the best possible chance by making sure you are eating nutritious food and getting enough energy.

At Trainimal Woman we coach and guide new mums daily to find their right energy needs. We look forward to helping you!

Sources–miljo/kostrad-och-matvanor/gravida,,–miljo/kostrad-och-matvanor/ammande and 

Abrahamsson, L., Andersson, A., Becker, W. & Nilsson, G. (2006). 

Näringslära för högskolan [Nutrition for University]. Stockholm: Liber