Does Breast Feeding Help With Postpartum Weight Loss?
Breast feeding provides important nutrients and antibodies to an infant. It provides a valuable bonding experience between mother and child, but does it help postpartum weight loss?
This question has been asked for may years and addressed in a variety of studies that have often given conflicting results. Let’s take a look at some of that scientific data and determine how much emphasis you should place on breast feeding as part of your postpartum weight loss plan.
For starters, it makes sense that if your body is producing some nutrient rich milk and passing on those nutrients to your infant, then your body is experiencing a net loss of calories. So intuitively speaking, it makes sense that a breast feeding mother would be burning and losing more calories more quickly than a non-lactating mother. A number of studies have examined the energy or calories expended with lactation and found them to be quite significant. Several studies have shown that lactating women lose weight more rapidly when compared to non-lactating women. Lower body fat specifically was found in one study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Kramer, F.M. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1993; volume 93, page 429-433). Studies have also shown that more prolonged duration of breast feeding is associated with more rapid weight loss especially between the third and sixth months after delivery (Ohlin, A. International Journal of Obesity. 1990; volume 14, page 159-173). Measured again at twelve months after delivery, studies further confirm that more of the pregnancy weight is gone in women who do breast feed than in women who don’t (Janny, C.A. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1997; volume 66, page 1116-1124). Other studies however have found no clear difference in postpartum weight loss when comparing lactating women vs. non-lactating women (Haiek, L.N., American Board of Family Practice. 2001; volume 14, page 85-94).