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Wondering why you’re gaining weight while breastfeeding?
You’ve likely heard that weight loss is “easy” if you breastfeeding so why are you gaining weight instead of losing it?
Don’t worry you aren’t alone – in this post, I’m going to deep dive into the hidden reasons behind breastfeeding weight gain – it’s something that is common AND super frustrating.
Especially if you feel you’re eating all the healthy foods, working out, and breastfeeding.
I’m willing to bet that any weight gain while breastfeeding has you feeling stressed out, am I right?
The thing is, since your stress levels are up, it means you’re producing more of the hormone cortisol which basically means that being upset about weight gain is actually ensuring that you don’t reach your goals.
Now, don’t worry, mama! That’s why you’re here – I’m going to help you understand the hidden reasons behind weight gain during breastfeeding so that you adjust your course and meet your weight loss goals.
I have a lot of experience helping breastfeeding moms tweak their diets and mindset so that they can reach their weight loss goals.
I help them be healthier while not losing their milk supply – you can check out The Postpartum Cure for more details on how I help moms heal during postpartum while boosting their milk supply.
Okay, let’s get started chatting about the reasons you’re gaining weight while breastfeeding.
The first thing I notice is that many moms will skip meals and work out like crazy thinking that it will stop or slow down their weight gain but then it doesn’t.
The reason it doesn’t work is that you are not giving your body the nutrients it needs as it heals and produces milk.
If you are skipping meals and working out all of the time, I urge you to stop and learn methods that will actually help you reach your goals. I am covering some of them right here in this post.
Weight Gain While Breastfeeding Reason 1: You Are Not Getting Enough Nutrients
Nutrients are very different than calories.
It’s common for breastfeeding moms to think that they need fewer calories since they have a weight loss goal.
The problem is that eating fewer calories also means you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients which is directly linked to how much breast milk you produce.
What happens is that you are likely experiencing a dip in your milk supply which then causes you to panic which then causes more stress.
You are probably then trying to increase your calories which sounds great but what you need to focus on is your NUTRIENTS.
If you’re part of this cycle, it is definitely a reason why you’re not losing and in fact, are probably gaining weight while breastfeeding.
Following a specific, lactation-focused diet plan is a HUGE help for a breastfeeding mom.
It can be hard if you are not making enough milk to keep yourself from reacting quickly. Try not to have a reactive approach, but a thoughtful one focused on a healthy diet.
In my program and app, all the recipes in the breastfeeding meal plan are created to help with milk supply by bringing in lots of nutrients.
This is so helpful because then you have a plan that helps you lose weight but not your milk supply.
(If you want to get a jump on increasing your nutrients, check out this protein powder that has been created specifically to boost lactation and curb – I highly recommend it!).
ACTION STEPS: What you can do right away is focus on every meal and snack being nutrient-dense healthy foods.
Eat things like fruits, veggies, clean and lean protein sources, nuts, a few whole grains like quinoa and oatmeal, and some beans like chickpeas.
As you add more nutrients to your diet, your body will feel safe, and it will start to let go of fat.
The flip side is, without proper nutrients, your body is going to want to hold onto, and in some cases store MORE FAT!
This is the first reason for weight gain while breastfeeding.
Weight Gain While Breastfeeding Reason 2: You Are Telling Your Body To Store Fat
I am going to elaborate further on the concept of nutrients and fat storage.
If you are not properly nourishing your body with the necessary macro and micronutrients, your body is stressed.
Part of the reason your body stores fat is to have reserved energy to use at another time.
The other reason is the necessary macro and micronutrients.
Our bodies are still primal, so we store fat during pregnancy to prepare for the extra nutrient and energy needs required to breastfeed our baby.
Our body assumes that more food will not be available, so it stores.
Back in the caveman days, while pregnant, catching and hunting food, it would be safe to say that there wouldn’t be an abundance of food just because a baby was born.
Our bodies very much still follow the imprinting of our pasts.
The thing is, in our modern world, we can eat more easily and we do consume more when we’re breastfeeding because our bodies crave more.
So, when we don’t choose nutrient-dense foods, our bodies are thrown off. Our bodies then spend time storing and preparing for the baby.
All this to say, I hope you can see the importance of eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods!
The focus needs to be on consuming high-quality, nutrient-rich foods so that your body can thrive!
Weight Gain While Breastfeeding Reason 3: Extreme Breastfeeding Hunger
I’m willing to bet that your appetite has increased significantly since you began breastfeeding, am I right?
Yup, you guessed it – the increased hunger that you’re feeling is your body’s way of letting you know that it needs more nutrients (sorry, this is so important!!).
This article is helpful in understanding hunger cues and what is going on.
Personally, when I’m hungry, I like to snack a lot.
If I eat a large meal, I feel tired so I eat a lot of snacks and small meals to keep my energy up.
The key is to have high-fiber/water-content foods with protein.
This is why protein shakes are one of my all-time favorite snacks (or meals if you add lots of things to them!).
Add a protein powder like Milk Dust to help curb sugar cravings and get the important nutrients you need.
Here are some of my other fav snack ideas for breastfeeding moms: carrots and hummus (or any other veggie), sweet potatoes, apple slices with cheese, roasted veggies, cucumbers with turkey, and mustard.
I recommend aiming for veggies and fruit with protein included too.
This will help your body feel full.
Weight Gain While Breastfeeding Reason 4: Your Sensitivity to the Prolactin Hormone
Prolactin helps tell your body to produce breast milk.
It also stimulates appetite.
This makes appetite and breastfeeding completely connected on a chemical level.
Prolactin is also responsible for reduced fat metabolism, which also means that your body isn’t breaking down and using fat cells as well.
For some breastfeeding moms, this isn’t an issue.
They may naturally have lower levels of prolactin, so when breastfeeding, they don’t react to the higher levels.
Other moms may have naturally higher levels (thanks to genetics!), so when those levels are increased more, they experience a larger reaction.
All this means is that some mamas can be naturally more sensitive to prolactin than others.
What this means is that despite everything you do, if you genetically have increased levels of prolactin (and other hormones), it will be more difficult for you to meet your postpartum weight loss goals.
But if you eat SUPER healthy, walk and move around a lot during the day, find ways to enjoy your life, and basically don’t sit around eating too many calories and unhealthy foods, you should be able to slowly and safely lose the extra baby weight.
If you aren’t losing weight, there is a small chance that your body just doesn’t want to let go of fat while breastfeeding.
Be careful not to jump to conclusions – a lot of moms have an inflated view of how “healthy” they are eating and how active they are.
I recommend writing down everything you eat for at least three days to really get an idea of your food intake and activity levels.
Weight Gain While Breastfeeding Reason 5: A Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the more difficult reasons for weight gain during breastfeeding to work through.
Breastfed babies obviously feed a lot during the night which means as a mom you just aren’t getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep causes increased appetite and cravings for high-fat and high-calorie foods.
Because we are mentally and emotionally struggling, “feel-good” foods are even more appealing.
Giving into food as a temporary fix for our tiredness easily becomes a habit.
Grabbing handfuls of chips, or even “healthy” snacks like nuts start to add up fast.
One of the best things I discovered that helped me curb cravings when I was feeling tired was adding in lots of outdoor walks with my babies.
This worked for me because it boosted my energy, I felt better because I was moving so I was able to maintain my healthy eating even though I wasn’t getting as much sleep.
It is always a good idea to go for a walk!
My best advice is to figure out how you can get more sleep or do things that will help manage your energy.
It doesn’t have to be a significant walk either. I often just went down the road and back and it did wonders!
That’s a Wrap…
If you are gaining weight while breastfeeding, don’t worry too much.
Some basic nutrition switches can help you nurture your body so that it will begin to let go of the extra fat cells.
If you’re truly wanting to start losing weight while breastfeeding, I urge you to check out my program – it’s designed for breastfeeding moms just like you!
There’s a private Facebook group for support where you can ask all the questions you have.
Another option is to take part in this 14-day free, clean eating challenge to help you get started on some new habits.
Focusing on nutrients, rather can calories is a huge factor, and if it all seems like too much, don’t worry.
The good news is there is plenty of time to lose weight.
There isn’t plenty of time to enjoy, breastfeed and snuggle your new baby!