Breastfeeding but still putting on weight? We explain why this can happen and how to deal with it…
With the arrival of the newborn, life has undoubtedly changed beyond belief – and so has your waistline. Gaining weight during pregnancy is natural, normal and inevitable. But what about the postpartum period? Do you find yourself hopping on the scale every day and seeing the same or sometimes even higher numbers? “My baby is 12 weeks old and I’m bigger now than I was while I was pregnant. I have put on extra pounds since the fifth week of giving birth. Now I feel depressed to have gained the weight back,” says Sunila Shetigar, mum to Anisha. If you have been noticing your weight has increased even when you have already given birth to your baby, don’t fret too much. As every woman is different, some nursing mothers retain at least some of the weight they gained during pregnancy longer than others do.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
According to Dr Varsha, clinical nutritionist and founder chairman of the Indian Institute of Nutritional Sciences, it is normal to put on weight post-pregnancy. And, if you are wondering how long it will take you to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and shape, it largely depends on how much weight you gained while pregnant, whether you followed a regular exercise programme, whether you ate healthy and if you are breastfeeding or not.
BREASTFEEDING HELPS SOME MUMS LOSE WEIGHT…
Breastfeeding helps you lose your postpartum weight. It uses up calories and therefore helps to get off extra weight. Nature’s way of providing the extra calories needed for milk production is to store up fat during pregnancy. Lactation helps to use up these fat stores. Therefore, as a nursing mother, you are more likely to loose the fat you gained during your pregnancy than a woman who does not nurse her baby. After six months, the more frequently you nurse and the total time you spend breastfeeding, the more weight you are likely to lose.
BUT NOT ALL OF THEM…
However, not every mother loses her calories during her breastfeeding stage. Trying to lose weight after the baby’s birth can be diffi cult and stressful. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is important to recognise that there are certain reasons a woman may not lose weight after a pregnancy or may even gain weight.
WHY THIS HAPPENS
In fact, after the baby is born, weight loss comes a little less naturally to many women. “One of the reasons that leads to extra pounds is the total change in your body structure because of pregnancy. Another cause is the sudden shift in your priorities that might result in weight gain. Once the baby arrives, your fi gure may be the last thing on your mind. Handling the newborn makes a new mum lapse into carelessness of her own needs,” explains Dr Varsha. Some mothers who decrease their physical activity and think they must eat more to make milk do gain weight. Lack of sleep can also be one of the reasons of weight gain. If you did not have enough sleep the night before, it can lead to droopy energy level during the day. Most of you might turn to food for energy sustenance. Further, discussing whether there’s a possibility of hormonal reasons leading to this weight gain, she adds, “Postpregnancy weight cannot be attributed just to hormones as this factor came into play when the pregnancy started.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
While you’re breastfeeding, you should not be dieting strenuously. You should not be following a liquid diet, low-carb diet, taking any weight-loss medicines or cutting your calories. Your body needs to have enough nutrients to produce milk. Dr Varsha says, “Avoid quick-fix solutions. Dieting should never be considered during the period of nursing. A drastic weight loss is dangerous for any individual and more so in a nursing mother. Weight loss indicates malnutrition. A nursing mother who is herself malnourished cannot bestow health to her newborn. If you become very undernourished, you’ll produce less milk, so you’ll be robbing your baby of her essential nutrients.”
Dr Varsha also explains Sunila’s concern over her diet’s affect on her milk. “Your milk is the only source of all nutrients for the newborn. The accelerated growth of both length and weight is accretion of the sum total of food consumed by the newborn which in this period is only milk. Hence your diet has to let the milk meet the total requirements of growth. If your diet is going to be in defi cit, so also would the milk be defi cit in those nutrients. If the mother has some stores, the newborn will deplete the mother. Hence mother must replete herself continuously to support the requirements of her newborn,” says Dr Varsha.
Weight loss should not be a priority and should also never be recommended as this juncture. However, if you are not losing weight gradually while nursing, Dr Varsha recommends some guidelines to help you get back in shape.
Super food: A new mum must eat super foods such as vegetables and fruits rather than continuing to follow the dictum ‘eating for two’.
– Boil, roast or bake meats and potatoes instead of frying them.
– Snack on raw vegetables and fruits instead of potato chips and cookies.
– Eat fresh fruits rather than sweetened canned ones.
– Eliminate or eat very little of high-fat cheeses, cakes, pastries and candy.
Stay hydrated: You should keep your body hydrated adequately by drinking enough plain water. Avoid having energy dense juices and sugared soft drinks.
Sleep well: You should be getting good sleep once you have delivered and are nursing your baby. A sleep-deprived mother is distraught and will pass on the stress to her newborn. So, team up with your husband in taking care of the baby. A newborn doesn’t recognise time and day so she may wake up and fret even if it’s three in the morning. Take turns with your husband whenever your baby frets so you both can have ample sleep.
Regular exercise: There is always this notion that pregnancy is debilitating and hence requires resting. No, that is totally untrue. A well-planned exercise schedule is extremely important in your weight-loss programme. Exercise helps the healing process and expedites your return to your pre-pregnancy weight. You might find it helpful to begin increasing the number of times you exercise each week. This may be enough to help to jump-start your metabolism and may help you to begin losing weight. M&B
Words Sahana Bhandari
Visuals Mother & Baby Picture Library