Breastfeeding taskforce

Why Many Breastfeeding Moms Lose Weight

Dear Doctors: I am breastfeeding my 4 month old son and I have lost weight. I’m naturally thin, but my sister thinks my baby isn’t getting the nutrients he needs. The pediatrician says my son is fine, but I’m worried. Should I switch to the formula?

To respond: When a new mom is healthy and has a healthy, balanced diet, her breast milk contains everything a baby needs to grow and thrive.

Breastmilk contains not only fat, protein and carbohydrates, but also vitamins, minerals and water for hydration, as well as a range of important bioactive compounds that help form and strengthen the baby’s developing immune system and promote brain development.

Breast milk is easily digested and absorbed. And the act of breastfeeding can be an important part of the bond between mother and child.

Your pediatrician says your baby is doing well and meeting the growth guidelines for her age. This means that your breast milk is doing its job. Unless your pediatrician suggests it, there is no need to switch to formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is, whenever possible, to exclusively breastfeed until the baby is four to six months old. At this point, switch to a mix of breastfeeding and appropriate solid foods.

On your own weight loss while breastfeeding, this is not unusual. Breastfeeding women burn an additional 500 to 700 calories per day, which can lead to weight loss. Since you’re already slim and continuing to lose weight, adjust your diet to compensate for the calories your body uses to produce milk.

When focusing on high-calorie foods and meals, stick to healthy eating parameters. Your baby eats what you eat. Include plenty of high-quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and healthy oils. Choose high-value snacks like nuts, seeds, yogurt, and nut butters.

The occasional “cheat” is fine, but try not to incorporate highly processed foods into your diet regularly.

And don’t forget to stay hydrated. If you maintain an increased calorie intake and continue to lose weight while breastfeeding, consult your obstetrician.

A new baby to care for is already a challenge. It is not helpful for a family member to offer opinions that undermine your comfort and confidence. You might consider bringing your sister with you the next time your baby visits the pediatrician.

You can address the issue of your weight and the nutritional needs of the baby, and hopefully the doctor can reassure you.

Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko are internists at UCLA Health.