Women who give birth (minus a few very lucky ones) have weight to lose and nursing moms have added challenges. Since nursing burns a lot of calories, moms who nurse tend to feel much hungrier. Exhaustion (typical for new moms) is also a weight loss barrier, both physiologically and mentally. Physiologically, it is hard for the body to burn calories when it is tired. Mentally, it is very hard for us to make good food choices when we are exhausted. Here are tips to combat some of a nursing mother’s challenges.
Practical tips and suggestions…
1. A nursing mom should be eating an extra 500 calories a day! This is even more than the 300 calories recommended for a pregnant woman. Nursing burns a lot of calories, and those calories need to be replaced. The key is to use these calories wisely and make good choices. You will be a lot more satisfied with an extra piece of grilled chicken and an extra serving of rice versus a bag of potato chips or chocolate.
2. Be very prepared for nighttime nursing. Have cut-up veggies and fruits in the refrigerator. This way if you do start opening the fridge in search of “something,” you are more likely to choose less damaging food. If you give the baby a bottle in the middle of the night, keep a small refrigerator and hot water upstairs. One client was great on her food plan all day, and always cheated at night when going downstairs to make the baby a bottle. Once she began keeping the items she needed upstairs, she saved herself a trip downstairs (and the extra calories).
3. Stay busy while nursing. In an ideal world, you are supposed to bond with your baby for the entire duration of the nursing session. In real life, this does not always happen. Many women tell me they get “bored” or “restless” while nursing and end up munching the wrong foods. My suggestion is to plan for things to do. Listen to a lecture, make some calls you need to handle, prepare books and magazines you might want to read, etc. You can also sing or read to the baby as well.
4. Change your attitude and the number on the scale will change too. So often I hear women saying they don’t think they can ever look the way they did before the baby, at their wedding, etc. My response to that is “why not”? Anyone at any stage or age can be in shape. Many of my clients will say they look and feel better than they did before their baby.
5. Monitor, monitor, monitor. To succeed, you must have a system of tracking progress. Some examples of monitoring include a weekly weigh-in, monthly measuring of inches and body fat, tracking food in a journal, or ideally, all three.
6. Stop waiting for it to come off “on its own” or “melt away.” Have you noticed that it’s not going to happen? Okay, there are a few very lucky people to whom it may happen. Chances are that you (and I) are not one of them. There are no shortcuts or magic to getting in shape.
7. Don’t forget to exercise. Dieting is important and if you are eating right, you will see the results on the scale. However, if you want your “old body” back (or even a better one), exercise is the key. Strength training, weight lifting, and pilates are examples of workouts that will firm you up, help you lose inches, and get rid of that unwanted flab.
Make sure to take some time and care of yourself. A healthy and fit mommy is a happy one. Happy Nursing! (And getting back to yourself!)