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Losing weight while breastfeeding

Will breastfeeding help me lose weight?


It’s normal to store extra fat during pregnancy to be used up while breastfeeding. Mothers vary in when they lose this extra weight. For some it is in the early weeks, some later and for others it's not until after they have stopped breastfeeding.1  

It’s important that you do lose this extra weight at some point, however, and not carry it through to another pregnancy or later life. If this happens, it makes it much harder to return to a healthy weight later on.  

Will breastfeeding help me lose weight?

Even though making breastmilk uses kilojoules, research is unclear whether breastfeeding helps weight loss. However, if you exclusively breastfeed your baby (they have no other food or drink) to around 6 months and keep breastfeeding to close to 12 months or more, it may help your weight loss a little.2 

While you are breastfeeding, it is better to lose your extra weight slowly, eating healthy food and adding in some exercise. It’s safe for breastfeeding mums to lose up to about half a kilo per week.1

Don't use crash or fad diets, where you lose weight quickly, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding. These diets don't have a good balance of important nutrients needed for both you and your baby. 

If you feel that you need to lose a lot of weight and more quickly, ask your doctor or a dietician for advice on a balanced weight loss diet.   

Tips for losing weight

Some hints if you are trying to lose weight: 

  • Avoid shopping when you are hungry. Write a shopping list and stick to it. Don't be tempted to buy high-fat or high-sugar snack foods. 

  • Base your diet on fresh produce and avoid highly processed foods as much as possible. 

  • Use smaller plates for your meals. 

  • Eat slowly. Don't put more food on your fork until you've eaten the last mouthful. This gives you time to feel full. 

  • Don't eat on the run. Sit down at the table and relax. 

  • Choose snacks of wholegrain products, nuts, vegetables and fruits.  

  • Cut down on fat (and kilojoule) intake by choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products, cutting off all visible fat from meat before cooking and using only a small amount of oil during cooking. 

  • Choose foods that contain little or no added sugar.

  • Note that labels on foods can be unclear. For example, some labelled 'low-fat' can still be high in kilojoules if they contain a lot of sugar. Foods labelled 'no added sugar' can also be just as high in kilojoules if they contain added fruit or fruit juice concentrate. To be sure, check labels for energy (kJ) content. 

  • Increase the amount of exercise you do. 

Losing too much weight?

You may have the opposite problem and find that you're losing too much weight too quickly. In this case, try to increase the number of serves of food you eat across all food groups. Don’t be tempted to eat highly processed foods high in saturated fats or added sugar. 

These foods may help you gain weight but they aren't good sources of the extra nutrients you need. Try having frequent, small meals or at least have snacks between each regular meal. Consult your doctor or a dietician if you are concerned about your weight loss.  


© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022


1. Lovelady C. (2004), The impact of energy restriction and exercise in lactating women. In: Pickering L, Morrow AL, Ruiz-Palacios GM, Schanler RJ, eds. Protecting infants through human milk. Part of Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 554). pp 115–120. 

2. Neville CE, McKinley MC, Holmes VA, Spence D, Woodside JV (2014), The relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum weight change — a systematic review and critical evaluation. International Journal of Obesity 38: 577–590. 

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