How Many Calories Does Breastfeeding Burn?
Every breastfeeding mother has probably wondered at some point how many calories breastfeeding burns. After all, it’s hard work! Some mothers ask this question simply out of curiosity, while many others wonder if they can count on breastfeeding to help them lose weight.
Because bodies are all so different, there is no guess exactly how many calories will burn for you specifically. Genetics, activity levels, how often your baby feeds, and things like stress and lifestyle will all play a role. Does breastfeeding burn calories for everyone? Absolutely! However, the information below should only be viewed as general information, not specific medical or diet advice.
How many calories does breastfeeding burn?
For a full-time breastfeeding mother, milk production typically burns somewhere around 500-700 calories per day. If you are breastfeeding part-time or your baby is older and supplementing their nursing with solid foods, this number will be lower. If you are breastfeeding multiple children, whether twins or a baby and older toddler, it will be higher.
Does pumping burn calories like breastfeeding does?
Calories burned from breastfeeding are due to the energy required to produce milk. As long as you are pumping at a rate that will sustain milk production, you are burning calories. It is important to remember that pumping burns calories just like breastfeeding does when considering your caloric needs if you are a part-time or exclusive pumper.
Can I count on breastfeeding to help me lose weight?
Even though breastfeeding burns calories, attempting to use it as a way to lose weight will not always produce the results that you might be hoping for. Due to breastfeeding hormones and the need for energy to recover from childbirth, you might find yourself needing to eat and rest more than you expected.
It can even be normal to not begin to lose pregnancy weight until after you are done breastfeeding, as some women’s bodies will hold onto the extra weight as a means to ensure the body has the energy to produce milk. Remember that your body is doing a lot of hard work after some pretty big changes, and try to prioritize feeling healthy and strong over losing weight.
Should I add calories to my day to compensate for breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding mothers need to be eating enough calories to sustain their own body’s healing, milk production, normal activity levels, and any additional workouts they have added. This number will vary from person to person and even birth to birth!
Instead of counting calories during breastfeeding, try to focus on listening to your hunger cues, staying well hydrated, and choosing nutritious foods to fuel your body. If you are having trouble maintaining normal energy levels or are feeling weak and fatigued throughout the day, talk to your care provider about your diet to make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients to keep you going.
Will trying to lose weight affect my milk supply?
Sustainable, slow weight loss during breastfeeding is ideal. Severe calorie deficits or cutting out important food groups can lessen your milk supply and make it difficult to maintain the energy needed to breastfeed.
If you have implemented any kind of restrictive diet, keep a close watch on your milk supply. If you notice that it starts to dip, discontinue your diet immediately and focus on getting enough calories from nutritious foods. It is best not to attempt any kind of intentional weight loss until your milk supply is firmly established, usually around 4-6 weeks after giving birth.
If breastfeeding doesn’t help me lose weight, what will?
It is understandable to want to get back to feeling like your old self as quickly as possible after having a baby. However, just because breastfeeding burns calories does not mean you should look at it as a diet aid or a quick fix solution.
Losing weight postpartum should never be achieved by extreme dieting, extraneous exercise, or “quick fix” products. Instead, focus on sustainable weight loss by limiting sugary foods, eating a good variety of nutrient-dense foods, and moving your body in ways that feel good to you as you recover from pregnancy and birth.
Full-time, exclusive breastfeeding burns a significant number of calories per day. Pumping full-time does the same, as the energy being used to produce milk is the same. The exact number of calories burned will vary based on a large number of factors. It will even vary day to day and week to week for each individual woman! Focusing on breastfeeding as a way to lose weight postpartum has the potential to create unhealthy and unsustainable habits.
Breastfeeding takes work, energy, and patience. The benefits to you and your baby far surpass the fact that breastfeeding may assist some women in losing pregnancy weight by burning extra calories. Optimal nutrition, emotional connection, and a host of health benefits for both mother and baby are the real start of the show...not the number of calories burned. Give yourself time to lose weight in a sustainable way by focusing on nourishing and moving your body!