Some people may think that breastfeeding is an automatic ticket to losing all their baby weight and getting back to their pre-baby body. You are burning up to ~500 extra calories per day! Wouldn't that be enough to shed the baby weight? Well, for some, it works that way. But for most, getting your pre-baby body back is not usually going to come without some good, hard effort. It's a process. Here's what I always tell people... It takes nine months to grow a human inside of you, so give yourself nine months to get back to your pre-baby weight too. Be patient. This is a process and you should first and foremost be dang proud of yourself for growing a human. That's HARD WORK. So congratulations!
But here are some tips I hope you'll find helpful, when trying to lose those last 10 pounds or so.
1. Limit the bad carbs, choose the good ones
After having Ellie, I have never been more happy doing absolutely nothing in my life. I literally spent all day just staring at her, and admiring her every move. With that being said, I have also never been so sleep-deprived in my life. And with sleep deprivation, comes hunger. Studies have shown that hungry, sleep-deprived, new moms tend to eat more carbohydrates... probably because we don't have the energy to do much more than survive, between feedings, being up through the night, and adjusting to life with a new baby. It's survival mode, right!? So we grab anything available, and these things tend to be highly processed, packaged, easy-to-grab foods. It's the "eat anything in sight" mode, and we tend to go first for simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are things like white bread, white rice, candy, soda, sugar, artificial syrups, desserts, etc... a lot of the packaged stuff. These carbs are easy to digest, high in sugar, low in fiber, and provide you with only a short-term amount of energy. Most healthy fruits, vegetables, and dairy are also technically made of simple carbohydrates, but they act more like complex carbs because of their higher fiber content. That leads me into my point: complex carbs. Complex carbs are things like whole grains, green vegetables, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, etc. These contain powerful vitamins, minerals, will keep you fuller for longer periods of time, and boost your energy in a more sufficient way. So when you're going to reach for the carbs, make sure to have some healthy, complex carbs ready. You won't need to eat as many of these, while still staying full and keeping energized. *Oatmeal is a great breakfast for a breastfeeding mother: it will keep you fuller for a longer period of time, yet is great for keeping your milk supply up.
2. Be patient
Like I said above, it took nine months to put that weight on, so give yourself nine months to get it off. My other advice: ditch the scale. I wish I could tell everyone to ditch it entirely, but I'd recommend not even setting foot on it for the first month postpartum, at least. Those first 4 weeks, your body is going to be adjusting quite a bit... losing a lot of water weight, learning the art of breastfeeding, and changing. Just focus on your baby and yourself during that time, and be patient. At six weeks, when you finally get the "go ahead" to start exercising again, this is when you can get to work.
3. Have healthy snacks ready to grab for when you're in "tired mom" mode.
Set yourself up for SUCCESS, for heavens sake. It's going to take a little extra effort on your part, but a little bit of prep can go a long way. Cut up fruits and veggies to keep in the fridge ready to go, cook healthy freezer meals for a quick meal, and stock up on healthy low-prep snacks/meals at places like Trader Joes. They have a ton of easy, healthy meal options... like bags of veggies ready for stir-fry to throw over brown rice/quinoa, etc. Cut up veggies ahead of time, throw out your white breads, and have things on hand for when the hunger sets in. Most of your weight loss (and losing those last 10 pounds), is going to come strictly through nutrition. So make that your focus!
4. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Prolactin is the hormone that controls how much milk you make. In order to keep it up, you need to be pulling energy from what you eat, rather than from your reserves, (which will lower prolactin levels). So, I suggest eating smaller and more frequent meals. Having six mini meals throughout the day may do you some good. You'll still be getting the necessary calories in, but you won't be eating too much. *It's advised to eat an extra 330 calories of food per day, and the other 170 can be drawn from the fat store you've accumulated during your pregnancy.
5. Stay hydrated!
Breast milk contains a lot of water, and so you should be drinking enough to keep yourself hydrated. I advise 13 cups of water per day, or ~100 oz. Keep a good water bottle nearby, and have one right by your main nursing station in your home. This will also help you to avoid the other options like juice, soda, or other sugary drinks. Stick with water! You can never go wrong.
6. Work in exercise, slowly
After the six weeks is up (and please give your body that time!) it's time to start getting an exercise regimen down. Start slowly and build from there. I like to sit down on Sundays and plan out my entire week, writing down what days I'm going to be implementing weight training, and what days are set aside for cardio. I'd do a mix of both: 2-4 days of weights, and 2-4 days of cardio, tailored to fit your needs. (*If you want to be conscious about keeping up your milk supply, eat a small, complex carb a half hour before your workout.)
You can read more about my more personal experience with my body image after pregnancy here.
7. Keep at it!
Whatever you do, keep at it! Don't get discouraged! Just because your weight isn't falling off like the celebrity you see in a magazine, it will happen for you! Just give yourself time. To be losing 1 pound per week, is healthy weight loss. As long as you're burning more calories than you're consuming, you'll lose weight. It's a simple truth. So if you're feeling the need to eat a little more, than move a little more as well. Get your baby in the stroller, get out on walks, join a gym, find a trainer to encourage you to stick with your goals, etc. It's all learning how to tailor a plan to fit your needs.
Be proud of all your body has accomplished so far! And soak in those moments with your newborn. They don't last long!