Some people lose weight when breastfeeding, possibly due to the extra calories the body uses to produce milk. Many factors can impact a person’s weight, and some people do not lose weight while nursing.

Breastfeeding uses calories, but many other postpartum factors, such as lack of sleep, stress, and hormone levels, can affect weight.

This article discusses whether nursing leads to weight loss and tips for healthy weight loss when breastfeeding.

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People often lose around 10 pounds straight after birth and a bit more in the first week after childbirth.

After that, breastfeeding may help people lose weight. People who exclusively breastfeed may use 400–500 calories daily to produce the milk a baby requires from 0 to 6 months. This is on top of their usual calorie requirements.

People who consume fewer calories than their body uses may lose weight.

According to a 2019 review, several studies have found a link between breastfeeding and weight loss, but other research has not.

Weight loss while nursing can depend on many factors, including:

  • the amount of weight a person has gained during pregnancy
  • physical activity levels
  • eating habits
  • the amount of breastmilk people produce

Caring for a baby while juggling other demands can be exhausting. Feeling tired, anxious, and stressed may reduce milk production and result in a lower calorie burn. Weight gain may also have links to these factors.

Prepregnancy weight may also be a factor in weight loss. According to a 2021 study, prepregnancy obesity or carrying excess weight before childbirth may increase the risk of retaining the extra weight after childbirth.

The study also notes that pregnancy can play a role in increased weight gain, and up to 20% of women keep 5 kilograms or more of the weight they gained in pregnancy.

Research from 2020 shows that breastfeeding may increase appetite, which may lead to increased weight gain if people take in more calories than necessary. Higher levels of prolactin, the hormone involved in milk production, may have links to increased appetite and food intake.

Additionally, some people experience postpartum thyroiditis — which refers to an underactive thyroid — after giving birth, which may reduce calorie burn and may even lead to weight gain.

Learn more about pregnancy weight gain.

People may find the following tips helpful for healthy weight loss during breastfeeding:

  • Exercise: Moderate-intensity exercise is beneficial after birth and can increase a person’s calorie burn without reducing milk supply. Exercise may also help prevent postpartum depression.
  • Eat a nutritious diet: A balanced, nutritious diet, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, protein, and whole grains, can nourish the body and help with weight loss.
  • Get enough sleep: A person can aim to get as much sleep as possible, such as sleeping when the baby naps.
  • Aim for gradual weight loss: Losing around 1 pound (lb) per week is a healthy weight loss goal.
  • Manage stress where possible: Try to reduce stress with relaxation techniques or seeking support from others, as stress may link to weight gain.
  • Avoid extreme or low calorie diets: Consuming fewer than 1,800 calories per day may decrease milk production.

Learn more about postpartum weight loss.

Losing around 1 lb per week is a healthy weight loss rate. However, consuming fewer than 1,800 calories a day when breastfeeding may reduce milk supply.

Losing more than around 1 lb per week through dieting may mean a lack of nutrients passes to the baby. People can contact a healthcare professional if they feel they are losing weight too quickly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding has the following benefits:

Learn more about the pros and cons of breastfeeding.

Some people may lose weight during breastfeeding, possibly due to the extra calories breastfeeding uses.

Hormones, stress, sleep, exercise, and diet can all affect weight, and some people do not lose weight when breastfeeding.

People can focus on staying healthy throughout breastfeeding by eating a balanced, nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and aiming to get as much sleep as possible.

If people have difficulty losing weight with healthy methods, they may wish to talk with a healthcare professional. Underlying medical conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, may affect weight loss.