Unveiling the Mystery Why Can't I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding - Milk Supply Mama

Unveiling the Mystery: Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

Last Updated: January 8, 2024By 16.6 min read

Hello, new mom! Isn’t motherhood fascinating yet challenging? Among these challenges, one question seems to be a recurring theme: Why can’t I lose weight while breastfeeding? You’ve probably heard it should be the other way around, right? Well, you’re not alone in this struggle. Many new mothers find themselves wrestling with this conundrum. Let’s delve into this mystery together and see if we can’t uncover some answers, and more importantly, solutions.

Article Overview

Stay tuned for our in-depth exploration of these topics, providing you with comprehensive insights and practical tips. By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of why weight loss while breastfeeding can be tricky and how you can navigate this journey more confidently. Remember, every mother’s journey is unique, just like every baby is unique. Let’s embrace this journey together, step by step.

Section 1: The Weight Loss and Breastfeeding Paradox

Breastfeeding and weight loss – it sounds like a match made in heaven, right? You’ve probably heard friends, family, or even your doctor say that the weight will just “melt off” while you’re breastfeeding. And it makes sense, considering breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories a day. That’s equivalent to a solid hour of moderate-intensity exercise! So why, despite this substantial calorie burn, do some of us find ourselves asking, why can’t I lose weight while breastfeeding?

Firstly, let’s be clear: if you’re in this boat, you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. Our bodies are complex machines, especially during the postpartum period. While breastfeeding does burn calories, it’s only one piece of the weight loss puzzle.

Here’s where it gets paradoxical: while breastfeeding, your body is naturally inclined to store up fat reserves to produce milk and fuel the intensive job of nourishing your little one. It’s an instinctual, biological process designed to ensure the survival of our species. Cool, isn’t it? But it also means that your body might hold onto weight more stubbornly during this time.

In addition, a common misconception is that the extra calories needed for breastfeeding give us a free pass to eat more. While it’s true that you need to consume more calories, the quality of these calories matters. An extra piece of fruit or a handful of nuts? Great! An extra serving of dessert or fast food? Not so much.

Finally, there’s the issue of hormones, which we’ll delve into more in the next section. But in a nutshell, certain hormones can promote weight retention during breastfeeding.

So, as you can see, the connection between breastfeeding and weight loss isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It’s a delicate balance influenced by biology, diet, activity level, sleep, stress, and more. But don’t worry, we’re going to unpack all of these elements one by one in the following sections. Remember, understanding the problem is the first step to finding a solution. So, let’s keep exploring together!

Section 2: Factors Influencing Postpartum Weight

As a new mom, I’m sure you’ve realized that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss, especially after childbirth. So, let’s explore the factors that might be playing a role in your postpartum weight journey. By understanding these factors, you can create a personalized strategy to help manage your weight while breastfeeding.


Oh, the ever-present hormones! They play a significant role in our lives, especially during and after pregnancy. Hormones like prolactin, which is essential for milk production, can also slow down your metabolism and contribute to weight retention. We’ll discuss hormones in more detail in Section 3.


Motherhood can be a stressful time, and stress can lead to weight gain or make it harder to lose weight. When you’re stressed, your body produces more cortisol, the infamous “stress hormone.” Higher cortisol levels can lead to increased appetite, cravings for high-calorie comfort foods, and even the storage of belly fat. Prioritizing self-care and stress reduction is crucial for both your physical and emotional well-being.

Sleep deprivation:

Sleepless nights are almost a given with a newborn, but did you know that lack of sleep can hinder your weight loss efforts? When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and less leptin (the fullness hormone), making you feel hungrier and less satisfied after eating. Plus, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for high-calorie, high-sugar snacks for quick energy. We’ll dive deeper into the relationship between sleep and weight in Section 4.


As we mentioned earlier, the quality of the extra calories you consume while breastfeeding is crucial. A well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats will provide the nutrients you and your baby need while supporting your weight loss goals. Overindulging in high-calorie, low-nutrient foods can hinder your progress.


Regular physical activity is essential for overall health and weight management. However, it’s important to ease back into exercise postpartum and choose activities that are safe for you and your recovering body. Walking, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are all gentle, low-impact options to consider. But always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, let’s dive into each of these factors in more detail in the following sections. Remember, knowledge is power! Understanding how these factors influence your postpartum weight will enable you to devise a personalized strategy that supports your weight loss efforts while breastfeeding. So, let’s keep learning together!

Section 3: Hormones and Weight Loss

Hormones – they’re like the unseen conductors of the body’s orchestra, controlling everything from our mood to our metabolism. During and after pregnancy, your hormones are on a roller coaster ride, significantly impacting your weight loss journey. Let’s shed some light on their role and how you can manage them for a healthier, happier you.


You’ve probably heard about prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production for breastfeeding. But did you know that prolactin also affects your weight? It tends to slow down your metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories overall. And while prolactin levels remain high during breastfeeding, they will eventually return to normal once you wean your baby, helping your metabolism bounce back.


Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” plays a significant role in childbirth and breastfeeding. While oxytocin is great for bonding with your baby, its role in weight loss is a bit more complex. Some studies suggest that oxytocin might help curb appetite and improve metabolism, but more research is needed to fully understand its impact on postpartum weight.

Estrogen and Progesterone;

Pregnancy significantly elevates levels of estrogen and progesterone. After childbirth, they plummet, which can lead to postpartum blues and affect your eating habits. As you continue breastfeeding, these hormone levels stay lower than usual, potentially impacting your body’s ability to shed fat.


As we discussed earlier, stress leads to an increase in cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Higher cortisol levels can result in increased appetite, cravings for unhealthy foods, and belly fat storage. It’s a survival mechanism from our hunter-gatherer days but not so helpful when you’re trying to lose weight!

So, what can you do to manage these hormonal influences? Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain a balanced diet: Consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods can help balance your hormones. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds may help lower cortisol levels.
  • Regular exercise: Exercise, particularly strength training and cardio, can help rebalance hormones by reducing insulin levels and cortisol.
  • Get enough sleep: Quality sleep helps regulate many hormones, including those responsible for appetite and stress.
  • Practice stress management: Activities like yoga, meditation, or simply taking a few minutes for deep breathing can lower cortisol levels and help manage stress.

Navigating your hormones during the postpartum period can feel like a tricky dance, but by understanding their role, you can make more informed choices. Remember, it’s all about balance and listening to your body. Let’s keep exploring this journey together in the next sections!

Section 4: Stress, Sleep Deprivation, and Weight

Motherhood – it’s a job like no other, filled with love, laughter, and, yes, a fair share of stress and sleepless nights. As we touched upon earlier, these factors can have a surprisingly significant impact on your weight loss journey. So let’s delve into why that is and how you can navigate these challenges more effectively.

Stress and Weight

Being a new mom is beautiful, but it can also be stressful. That crying baby who needs you 24/7, the mountain of laundry that never seems to shrink, and the myriad other responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode and releases cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Cortisol increases your appetite, especially for high-sugar, high-fat comfort foods. It can also cause your body to store excess calories as belly fat. It’s a survival mechanism that served our ancestors well, but in our modern world, it can contribute to weight gain or hinder weight loss.

Sleep Deprivation and Weight

Newborns aren’t known for their stellar sleep habits. Those middle-of-the-night feedings can leave you feeling like a zombie, and that sleep deprivation can affect your weight.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and less leptin (the “fullness hormone”). This can lead to increased hunger and decreased satisfaction after meals. Lack of sleep can also affect your body’s insulin sensitivity, which can lead to weight gain and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Managing Stress and Sleep Deprivation

While it’s impossible to eliminate all stress and sleep deprivation from your life as a new mom, there are strategies you can use to manage them more effectively:

  • Self-Care: It’s not just a buzzword – it’s essential. Take a few minutes each day to do something just for you, whether that’s reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, or even just enjoying a cup of tea in silence.
  • Ask for Help: You don’t have to do it all yourself. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends. They can watch the baby for an hour or two while you nap or take care of some household chores.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and improve sleep. Even a short walk around the block with your baby in the stroller can do wonders.
  • Nutritious Diet: Eating a balanced diet can help regulate your mood, keep your energy levels steady, and prevent those sugar cravings that can creep in when you’re tired.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can help lower stress levels and improve sleep quality.

Motherhood can indeed be a juggling act, but remember, you’re not alone. It’s okay to have tough days and feel overwhelmed. By understanding the impact of stress and sleep deprivation on your weight, you can take steps to manage them more effectively. So let’s continue our journey in the next section, where we’ll discuss diet and exercise while breastfeeding.

Section 5: Diet and Exercise While Breastfeeding

You might be wondering, “What should my diet and exercise routine look like while breastfeeding?” It’s a crucial question, as the answer affects not only your weight loss journey but also your breastfeeding success. Let’s talk about how to balance nutrition and safe exercises to support both your weight loss goals and your breastfeeding journey.

Balanced Nutrition While Breastfeeding

When you’re breastfeeding, your body needs extra calories to produce milk. But it’s not just about eating more – it’s about eating right. Here are some tips for a balanced breastfeeding diet:

  • Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods: These are foods that pack a lot of nutrients relative to their calorie content. Think fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. These foods will keep you full and satisfied, making it easier to manage your calorie intake.
  • Stay Hydrated: Breastfeeding can be dehydrating, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids. Water is always a good choice. You can also sip on herbal tea or flavored water if you want a bit of variety.
  • Limit Added Sugars and Processed Foods: While they might be tempting, especially when you’re tired and stressed, these foods can lead to weight gain and don’t provide the nutrients you and your baby need.
  • Listen to Your Body: Every woman is different. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and eat accordingly. If you’re hungry, eat! If you’re full, it’s okay to stop eating.

Safe Exercise While Breastfeeding

Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and weight management. But postpartum exercise needs to be approached carefully. Here are some tips:

  • Start Slowly: If you had a straightforward vaginal delivery, you might be able to start gentle exercises as soon as you feel ready. However, if you had a C-section or a complicated birth, you might need to wait longer. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting or resuming an exercise program.
  • Choose Low-Impact Activities: Activities like walking, swimming, yoga, or pilates can be good choices in the early postpartum period. They’re gentle on your body and can be done at your own pace.
  • Listen to Your Body: This is crucial. If an activity causes pain or discomfort, stop doing it and consult with your healthcare provider.
  • Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed: Exercise burns calories, so you might need to eat a little more if you’re exercising regularly. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Consider Your Breastfeeding Schedule: Some women find that their breasts are uncomfortably full before a feeding, which can make exercise uncomfortable. You might prefer to exercise just after a feeding.

Balancing diet and exercise while breastfeeding can be a challenge, but with the right approach, you can support both your weight loss goals and your breastfeeding journey. Remember, it’s not about being perfect – it’s about making consistent, healthy choices that make you feel good. Let’s move forward together and continue our learning in the next section!

Section 6: Actionable Tips to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding

By now, we’ve explored the many factors that influence postpartum weight loss, from hormones and stress to diet and exercise. But how can you apply these insights to your daily life? Let’s dive into some actionable tips and practical strategies to help you lose weight while breastfeeding. Remember, we’re focusing on cultivating a healthy lifestyle, not chasing quick fixes.

Set Realistic Goals:

Aiming to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight immediately post-birth is not realistic or healthy. Instead, aim for gradual weight loss. Losing about a pound per week is generally safe for breastfeeding moms.

Eat Mindfully:

Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re satisfied. Try to eat without distractions so you can fully focus on your meal and notice when you’ve had enough.

Plan Balanced Meals and Snacks:

Each meal should include a balance of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. This will keep your blood sugar stable, keep you feeling satisfied, and provide the nutrients you and your baby need.

Stay Active:

Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Remember, you don’t need to run a marathon or spend hours at the gym to benefit from exercise. Even a 15-minute walk or a short yoga session at home can make a difference.


Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Staying hydrated can also help you avoid unnecessary snacking.

Get Support:

Don’t hesitate to ask for help, whether that’s someone to watch the baby while you go for a walk, a friend to share healthy recipes with, or a professional, like a dietitian or personal trainer, to provide guidance and support.

Be Kind to Yourself:

This might be the most important tip of all. You’ve just had a baby – that’s a huge deal! Your body has done an amazing thing. Celebrate what it’s done and what it continues to do every day. Weight loss is a journey, and like any journey, there will be ups and downs. Be patient with yourself and remember that you’re doing the best you can.

Losing weight while breastfeeding is indeed a balancing act, but by implementing these practical tips and strategies, you can support your health and wellbeing during this unique time in your life. Remember, it’s not about quick fixes, but sustainable changes that you can incorporate into your everyday routine. Let’s keep exploring and learning together in the next section!

FAQ Section – Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding

In this part of our journey together, we’ll address the most frequently asked questions about weight loss while breastfeeding. If you’re wondering about something, the chances are it’s been asked and answered here.

Q1: Can breastfeeding help me lose weight?

Yes, breastfeeding can help with weight loss. When you breastfeed, your body uses stored energy (aka fat) to produce milk, which can contribute to weight loss. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different, and factors like diet, exercise, stress, and sleep also play a big role.

Q2: How many extra calories do I need while breastfeeding?

On average, breastfeeding moms need about 300-500 extra calories per day compared to pre-pregnancy needs. This can vary based on your activity level, your weight, and how much milk you’re producing. Remember, it’s not just about eating more, but eating nutrient-dense foods that support both you and your baby’s health.

Q3: When can I start exercising after giving birth?

The timing for starting exercise after giving birth varies based on factors like the type of delivery (vaginal or C-section), complications during birth, and how you’re feeling overall. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting or resuming an exercise program postpartum.

Q4: Can I go on a diet while breastfeeding?

It depends on what you mean by “diet.” If you mean a crash diet or a diet that severely restricts calories, then no. Such diets can be harmful to both you and your baby. However, adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support your weight loss goals and your breastfeeding journey.

Q5: Why am I not losing weight while breastfeeding, even though I’m eating healthily and exercising?

Several factors can impact weight loss while breastfeeding, including hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, and even genetics. If you’re eating healthily, exercising, and breastfeeding but not seeing the scale move, it might be worth discussing this with your healthcare provider. They can help you rule out any medical issues and provide personalized advice.

Remember, each person’s journey with postpartum weight loss is unique. What works for one person might not work for another, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that you’re taking care of yourself and your baby. You’re doing a great job, mama, and we’re here to support you every step of the way! In the next section, we’ll wrap up our exploration together.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

We’ve journeyed through the complexities of postpartum weight loss while breastfeeding, unraveling its mysteries, and equipping you with strategies to navigate this unique time.

Remember, every mother’s journey is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to “why can’t I lose weight while breastfeeding?” Be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and stay focused on nourishing your little one and maintaining your health.

The number on the scale is just that – a number. Your worth is not defined by it. Your body has created and is now nourishing life, and that’s an incredible achievement.

So, as we wrap up, remember to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Celebrate the small victories. Enjoy this precious, fleeting time with your baby. And know that we’re here, cheering you on every step of the way.

You’re doing a wonderful job, mama. Keep going, keep growing, and keep being you. Here’s to your health, your happiness, and your incredible journey through motherhood!

Why Can’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding – Further Reading

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