|Photo: Cornell University Library|
2 ways to ensure postpartum weight loss and to return to pre-pregnancy weight are:
1. Do not gain excessive amounts of weight during pregnancy.
2. Breastfeed for at least 6 months, and ideally for 12+ months.
According to a research article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, among a Danish population, postpartum weight loss was associated with breastfeeding. That population was selected because Danish women tend to breastfeed more and for a longer period of time than in other countries. The two major factors they considered were pregnancy weight gain and breastfeeding.
Is pregnancy weight gain correlated with postpartum weight retention? Researchers found that more weight gain during pregnancy was associated with more postpartum weight retention. In other words, the more weight they gained, the more weight they retained afterwards. This was true after 6 and 18 months postpartum.
Is breastfeeding correlated with postpartum weight retention? Researchers found that breastfeeding was associated with more postpartum weight loss for all groups of women except the heaviest.
There are obviously many strategies for postpartum weight loss, including healthy diet, exercise, belly binding, etc, but breastfeeding alone may be the single most effective way to lose your baby weight! Personally, I have found this to be true three times in the past four years. Each pregnancy, I gained ~35 pounds, and within 6-9 months (while breastfeeding) I returned to pre-pregnancy weight.
The women I know who have lost their baby weight in less than 6 months all gained much less weight than I did. For example, a friend who gained 15 pounds during pregnancy lost it within 1-2 months. A friend who gained 20-25 pounds lost it within a few months. Some women even lose it immediately, within days or weeks.
Do not fret if you gained a lot during pregnancy because breastfeeding can help you lose that weight. You just may have to work harder to lose the weight or it may take longer for you. Clearly, there are times when your OB may recommend you gain more or less weight during pregnancy, based on many clinical factors. Remember that your baby’s health is more important than your size, so be sure to follow doctor’s orders.
Tune in tomorrow for a discussion about how much weight you should gain during pregnancy based on your pre-pregnancy size.
Reference: Baker JL, Gamborg M, Heitmann BL, Lissner L, Sorensen TIA, Rasmussen KM. “Breastfeeding Reduces Postpartum Weight Retention.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dec 2008. Vol 88. No 6. 1543-1551.